Jury finds Columbus man not guilty of refusal to identify self


BROWNSTOWN — A Bartholomew County man who refused to identify himself during a traffic stop earlier this year was found not guilty of failure to identify Thursday during a jury trial in Jackson Superior Court I.

Kyle Wade Ferree, 40, of Columbus had been arrested on the Class C misdemeanor charge on Feb. 21 by Sgt. Brian Moore with the Seymour Police Department.

After a fairly rapid jury selection and trial during the morning, the jury returned after nearly five hours of deliberations before returning with the not guilty decision.

According to court records, Ferree opted to represent himself — pro se — during the trial.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Moore was on patrol on Feb. 21 in an unmarked vehicle and driving westbound on Tipton Street near Airport Road.

Moore said when he turned onto Airport Road, he saw a white Chevrolet Camaro heading southbound that had a license plate that said “private” and lacked necessary vehicle registration information, such as county of residence, state, month, day and year.

Moore said he had never seen a license plate of that type on a vehicle in the past and activated his emergency lights to conduct a stop because the vehicle did not have a valid license plate.

When Moore approached the driver, later identified as Ferree, he asked for his license and registration and asked what kind of plate he had on the car, according to court records.

Ferree then said he wanted Moore to tell him what law he had violated to lead to the traffic stop.

Moore told Ferree he had no valid plate on the vehicle and asked again for his license and registration.

Ferree said Moore then asked him again to tell him what crime he had committed to warrant a traffic stop. After repeatedly asking Ferree for his license and registration and not receiving it, Moore called for another unit to assist.

By this time, Moore told Ferree state law required motorists to identify themselves during a lawful traffic stop and failure to do so would mean he would be arrested, according to court records.

Ferree continued to argue with Moore, saying his vehicle was his private property and he didn’t need a license or need to identify himself because he was not operating in a commercial capacity.

After 5 minutes of Moore asking for Ferree’s license and registration and not receiving the information, another officer arrived on scene to assist.

Moore then told Ferree he was giving him a lawful order to shut the car off and step out of the vehicle. According to the probable cause, Ferree continued to refuse.

After a few minutes more of being ordered to step out of his vehicle, Ferree unlocked his door. Moore then grabbed Ferree’s arm to place him under arrest for failure to identify himself.

Moore located an Indiana ID card in Ferree’s wallet and ran a check on his driving status. Moore found Ferree had a suspended driver’s license and an expired registration on his vehicle.

During the jury trial, Prosecutor Lynsey Fleetwood argued Ferree refused to identify himself through his conduct.

Ferree said during his closing statement, he has been a constitutional activist for a long time, and due to a motion in limine keeping him from misstating the law, he was not able to use previous cases and apply them in his favor.

In the body camera footage of Moore, Ferree said many times he was traveling in his private mode of transportation.

Fleetwood said after the trial presided over by Judge AmyMarie Travis that these phrases are often used by individuals known as sovereign citizens.

A sovereign citizen is a phrase referring to a variety of anti-government individuals and groups that oppose taxation, question the legitimacy of government and believe they are not subject to the law.

Fleetwood said often, sovereign citizens assert a constitutional “right to travel” in a “conveyance” or private property to forgo requirements for license plates, vehicle registration and driver’s licenses.

Fleetwood said after the trial even though one of the freedoms in the Constitution is the freedom of movement and the subsequent right to travel, it does not mean an individual does not need a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.

Because roads and highways are public infrastructure and operating a vehicle poorly has the potential to harm others and their property, state governments have the right to require citizens to have a driver’s license before operating a vehicle on public roads.

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