A Fort Langley man told a befuddled Provincial Court judge Thursday that he was within his rights as a "self-governing" person to operate his vehicle without a licence when he was stopped at, then fled from, a police roadblock last summer near Cultus Lake.
Douglas Norman Baker, 51, was defending himself at his trial on two charges of obstructing a peace officer and one charge of driving while prohibited.
Baker didn't dispute the circumstances of the charges, except to insist that he was "travelling" not "driving," which he said would have required him to be conducting business or in the employ of the government.
In 2010, he was stopped by Abbotsford police while driving without a valid licence. His Ford Bronco was impounded at the time and he was handed a driving prohibition.
On June 30, 2011, he was stopped at a police roadblock near Cultus Lake. Asked if he possessed a driver's licence, he told Const. Bradley Rendall, "No, I don't." Instead, Baker handed Rendall three documents, including his birth certificate and a statement that began:
"Take notice, with all due respect officer, I am a self-governing sovereign child of God exercising my inalienable right to travel in my private vehicle."
The document ended: "I will now bid you God's peace and farewell."
After being told his car would be impounded, and as another Mountie asked him for his keys, Baker returned to his vehicle and left the scene.
He was stopped again 500 metres down Columbia Valley Road.
Baker's theories are similar to those held by the so-called "Freeman" or "natural person" movement. He attempted to submit a 48-page document as evidence. But Crown counsel Robert Gunnell called the submission "a pile of pseudo-legal mumbo jumbo," and it was rejected by Judge Roy Dickey as not being applicable to the case.
Baker, though, stuck to his guns and called the incident a "misunderstanding." Throughout the day-long trial, he asked the arresting officers whether he was a government employee or if he had a contract with ICBC. Without a contract, Baker said he wasn't at the mercy of laws that prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle without a licence.
"I think the evidence is self-explanatory," he said. "They did get my notice of intent . . . I went back to my vehicle and simply drove away after the officer had seen my notice.
"I am a human being," he continued. "I am a man. I have common-law rights."
Because he was acting as a private citizen, he said he was entitled to his constitution-enshrined right of "free travel."
That had Dickey looking confused.
"Do you realize the ability to drive is a privilege not a right?" he asked, explaining that various courts have asserted and confirmed that ruling when challenged.
"Where's the case law that says Douglas Norman Baker is able to interpret the law as he sees fit?" an agitated Dickey asked.
"It's in the constitution," Baker replied.
"I didn't see your name in the constitution," said Dickey. "Where is there anything about freedom of travelling as one sees fit?"
"Well I have that belief," said Baker.
Dickey said the same logic would permit others to commit murder or other horrible crimes. That elicited horror from Baker, who explained that self-governing people have a duty to live honourably.
Baker had begun the trial by questioning Dickey's authority over him.
"Are you claiming authority over me?" he asked at the start of the trial.
"Yes, I am," Dickey had responded.
"Where's your proof of authority?"
"You're in a courtroom."
But as he concluded his defence, Baker expressed gratitude at being given his day in court: "I really appreciate your patience with me. I know this has been an experience, but I hope I'm not the worst."
Dickey will hand down his decision on the case in mid January.
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