Is there any evidence including but not limited to testimony, documentary evidence or physical evidence that would prove that the constitution, laws and rules of a state apply to someone in particular simply because that person is physically in that state?

The common assumption is that the law applies because the laws say so but that is just circular logic.

For instance, let's say there is a man named John Smith who is physically located in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Let's also say that in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, there is a law saying that it is illegal to wear a bow tie on Sundays. Would there be any evidence including but not limited to testimony, documentary evidence or physical evidence that would prove that the law saying that it is illegal to wear a bow tie on Sundays apply to this particular John Smith simply because he is physically in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA?

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    @RémyRoy For example, could we just point to a person in jail as evidence that the law was applied? Or are you asking something different? – user3109 Jun 19 '14 at 3:08
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    @RémyRoy - I really don't understand what you mean by "evidence". Are you looking for an example of "he was arrested for breaking a local law"? Are you asking whether philosophically there's justification for applying local laws to visitors? Are you asking whether or not local laws apply to visitors? – Bobson Jun 19 '14 at 15:48
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    By the same token, what evidence is there that the law applies to anyone (including citizens)? – Relaxed Jul 4 '16 at 23:07
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    Laws are not like Physics experiments. We don't develop hypotheses, design tests, then gather evidence about laws. Laws apply to what they say they apply to. That might seem like circular logic to you, but several thousand years of legal culture say that is how it works. More basically, you cannot claim you are exempt from a law simply because you came from somewhere else. You must obey laws where you are. "When in Rome...." and all that. – abelenky Jul 5 '16 at 16:07
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    The question was "do the laws apply?", not "is it right, moral and just that the laws apply?" – abelenky Apr 21 '17 at 19:54

I'm still not sure if I understand what you're asking for, or whether my comment above provided it, but having just finished reading Articuno's link to Meads v. Meads, I figured I'd quote from it to flesh out my comment.

You say you are looking for "evidence", but it's unclear what kind of evidence you will accept, since the word can mean at least two different things. I'll attempt to elaborate on each.

Evidence from examples

I'm not going to go into significant detail here unless you ask for it, but I will point to speeding tickets and licensing for out of state marriages as two examples of cases where the laws where you are currently located take precedence over the laws where you come from.

Specifically: If you're going 10 MPH over the speed limit in a state where the fine for that is $500, it doesn't matter if the state you're licensed in would only fine you $10 for that, or even wouldn't bother ticketing you at all. You're still liable for the $500 ticket.

Likewise, if you're in a state which requires a three-day waiting period between applying for a marriage license and getting one, or between getting one and when you're actually allowed to get married, you're still able to go to another state which is willing to issue same-day marriage licenses to out-of-state couples, get married, and return to your home state before you would have been able to get married if you had stayed.

Evidence from justification

In Meads v. Meads, Justice Rooke says:

I have reviewed, in my discussion of the inherent authority of superior courts, why everyone who is in Canada is subject to Canadian law and the Canadian courts. Further, this is a simple fact known by all, an element of the most basic levels of education, and a cornerstone of the operation of an ordered society. [Para 568]

In the "discussion of the inherent authority of superior courts" section, he writes:

The courts in Canada are a separate, distinct, and independent branch of government. In [previous cases, it was] concluded that the independent character of this and other Canadian courts flows from unwritten constitutional principles that have been inherited from the U.K. and are a separate and essential constitutional aspect of government, "definitional to the Canadian understanding of constitutionalism".

The authority of this Court, like other superior courts of inherent jurisdiction, does not flow from legislation, as does, for example, the Provincial Court of Alberta. Rather, this Court has inherited that jurisdiction as a successor to the English Royal Courts. [A previous case] explains this Court's genealogy:

... The provincial superior courts have always occupied a position of prime importance in the constitutional pattern of this country. They are the descendants of the Royal Courts of Justice as courts of general jurisdiction. ...

That heritage reaches to the very foundation of an independent judiciary:

... "Superior Court" is to be construed historically, and that ... it connotes a court having an inherent jurisdiction, in England, to administer justice according to the law, as and being a part of, or descended from, and as exercising part of the power of, the Aula Regia, established by William the First, which had universal jurisdiction in all matters of right and wrong throughout the kingdom, and over which, in its early days, the King presided in person.

[Para 352-354]

In other words, because the King had jurisdiction over everything in his kingdom, and he designated courts to handle cases for him, then the current iteration of those courts have jurisdiction over everything within their areas. This holds true even if the current iteration is no longer appointed by the King (or Queen, in this case) directly.

Similarly, for countries which don't have a monarch, universal jurisdiction is invested in someone or some body. In the US, that's the Supreme Court, but in other countries it could be the legislative body or the head of the country. Under that level (whatever it may be), lesser courts handle subsets of the case load.

As for why there has to be some body which has universal jurisdiction over a country, I'll cite Justice Rooke again:

A superior court of inherent jurisdiction has a special general jurisdiction in substantive as well as procedural law. It is a clear and well‑understood principle of Canadian law that where a person has a right in law, there must exist some tribunal where that right may be exercised and defended. If no other court has been assigned authority to address a particular kind of legal action or subject matter, then that authority falls to the superior courts of inherent jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Canada considered this inherent substantial jurisdiction of provincial superior courts in Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Canadian Liberty Net, 1998 CanLII 818 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 626 at para. 32:

The notion of "inherent jurisdiction" arises from the presumption that if there is a justiciable right, then there must be a court competent to vindicate the right ... the doctrine of inherent jurisdiction requires that only an explicit ouster of jurisdiction should be allowed to deny jurisdiction to the superior court. [Emphasis added.]

[Para 362-363]

Again, to rephrase: If you have a right, there must be something to ensure nothing infringes that right. Thus, with no ultimate court, there's no inherent rights to preserve, because every "right" you have can be infringed on at will (by someone, even if not by everyone).

In short: "Yes, there is evidence"

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    That got a little longer than I expected. – Bobson Jun 24 '14 at 20:49
  • Unfortunately, the answer of the court you quoted boils down to: "Because we said so." This is not evidence. The court did not specify where they derived the "authority" to dispense justice. Furthermore, courts can NOT protect rights. They can only dispense justice after rights have been already been violated. No court can claim a monopoly over justice without first violating the rights of individuals to choose which courts they wish to seek justice from (fortunately, this right is reserved for private arbitration). – razorsyntax Apr 21 '17 at 21:49
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    @razorsyntax I think you missed the point of the quote. It's not "Because we said so", it's "Because someone has to". Say that I walk up to you, punch you in the jaw and steal your wallet. I think we can both agree that I just violated your rights. How would you want to seek justice? I've just demonstrated that you can't get your wallet back by force. And I am certainly not going to agree to give it back just because you asked for it. What do you do? (If your answer involves "a security company I've contracted with" then assume that I've contracted with a bigger, stronger security company.) – Bobson Apr 21 '17 at 22:17
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    @razorsyntax - There's only so much I can put into one comment. Yes, you can come after me while I'm asleep, or otherwise not able to defend myself. But other than that, you don't really have any options. You can hire mercenaries/bounty hunters/private security and pay them to go up against mine, but then "justice" is "whoever can hire the best soldiers". You can go to arbitration, but I refuse to participate. So the arbitrator will have to hire soldiers to go up against mine, and justice is again "best soldiers win". – Bobson Apr 24 '17 at 20:38
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    There's many ways to dispense justice today, but fundamentally they all are either toothless (like non-binding arbitration) or are backed by the threat of force (go along or get excluded/arrested/shot). And if you're using force, then someone has to direct it, either individually (mafia boss) or as a group (government). And whatever that person or people want, is what the law is. Thus, there must be a final arbitrator for any "justice" you can get, which is the point of this answer. If you don't believe me, I'll be happy to work through any example of the "MANY different forms" you want. – Bobson Apr 24 '17 at 20:44

Are you a subject, a guest, or a foe?

Calvin's Case was decided in the fifth year of King James I's rule of England. Coincidentally, this was near the beginning of English colonization of Virginia.

The deciders of the case answered the original post's question on grounds of "natural law". In other words, based on principles that take precedence over the law-making efforts of kings and legislatures. The deciders believed that these principles of "natural law" are not changeable by ordinary humans.

The deciders used the following logic, with respect to the original poster's question. A person who is physically in a state, is in one of the following categories:

  • A vassal (perhaps indirectly) of the sovereign.
  • A minor child of a vassal (perhaps indirectly) of the sovereign. As a ward of a vassal, the child is indirectly a vassal of the sovereign.
  • An invited guest of the sovereign. In accepting the sovereign's invitation, the guest agreed to abide by the laws of the host state.
  • A minor child of an invited guest of the sovereign. The child is a ward of the invited guest. The invited guest has agreed on the child's behalf that the child will be subject to the laws of the host state.
  • A traitor.
  • An outlaw.
  • An enemy.
  • A child of an enemy.

Members of the first four categories have natural obligations to abide by the constitution, laws and rules of the state, and the state has reciprocal obligations to them.

Members of the last four categories are at war with the state. Members of the last three categories do not have natural obligations to abide by the constitution, laws, and rules of the state. On the other hand:

  • Traitors were subject to being declared outlaw, having their property confiscated, and/or execution pursuant to rulings of legally-constituted authorities.
  • The crime of manslaughter did not apply to killing someone who had been declared an outlaw.
  • The sovereign has a duty to defend his subjects. To carry out this duty, the sovereign may wage war against members of the last two categories.

By the way, the deciders of the case distinguished between a child born to a vassal of King James in a jurisdiction ruled by King James while James was generally obeyed as ruler of that jurisdiction, versus a child born to the same parents in the same jurisdiction before James became the ruler of that jurisdiction. This distinction affected which of the above categories the child fell into, but could only affect the answer to the original poster's question if subsequent events caused the new category to become "child of an enemy" instead of "child of an invited guest".

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    I like this answer, but for the sake of preempting counter arguments, you should make explicit that the "outlaw" category is the "nothing else applies" category, into which people who reject the laws fall. – Bobson Apr 23 '17 at 2:34
  • "Are you a subject, a guest, or a foe?" <--- That's the fundamental question. Relative to who? A group of human beings proclaiming themselves to rule over other people? It's just another argument stemming from a power structure to classify those that it claims rule. It's not evidence, it's just opinionated rationalizations from a power structure. – razorsyntax Apr 24 '17 at 22:16

Laws are an artificial human construct and therefore they can only function where the society at large has the resources to enforce them in practice. If, say, country A says you're not allowed to swim in lakes on Sundays, there's only so much you can do as a guest to said country:

  • Leave the country and go swimming abroad
  • Obey the law, regardless of what you think of it
  • Skirt the law by finding a lake deep in the woods to swim in
  • Openly disobey the law and go to prison/pay a fine
  • Attempt to prevent the enforcement of the law by engaging in physical conflict with country A's official authorities

As you can see nobody really cares whether or not you believe the law applies to you or not. Follow the law or face the consequences.


Regardless of the alleged protections that government constitutions give the people, the truth is that governments are responsible for the most egregious acts against their own people around the world and throughout history. A person born on this planet and without conditioning would have no thought of jurisdiction, taxes, speed laws, etc. But he certainly would understand if others were to threaten him with violence or incarceration if he failed to comply with their demands.

Unless stated in a bi-lateral executed contract, there is no evidence that you are obligated to comply with any law. But if you don't, a man wearing body armor who carries a gun and handcuffs may assault and batter you. And even though he takes your life, liberty and property without due process of law, any court-ordered reparations will never make you whole - what court can replace the hours, days or years of your life lost to an officer who is just doing his job?

Those who wield the most powerful weapons are the ones who make the laws - that is the essence of government. Anyone who tells you otherwise is deluded and/or lying to you.

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    Please define "evidence" as you are using it here. Also, I don't think anyone has said that laws are not ultimately backed up by force. They certainly are. That does not mean you are not bound by them, though. The whole point of backing laws by force is that anyone who breaks the laws will be forced to suffer. So your example of being arrested is what I would call evidence that laws do apply to you, regardless of any lack of explicit contracts. – Bobson Apr 21 '17 at 3:32
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    You can argue whether or not the laws should apply to you if you haven't voluntarily accepted them, and I would really enjoy having that debate with you. But your own answer provides the example that they do. – Bobson Apr 21 '17 at 3:40
  • @Yoda Well said. – razorsyntax Oct 30 '17 at 17:44

There is no empirical evidence to prove that the laws and constitution of a state government actually applies to People, whether they give their consent or not. There is no source of law which confers such a right on any court, no matter what men call it (superior or inferior). There has been no law written that has ever been fully obeyed by men. The law can make no one do anything they don't want to do. But it does serve as a cautionary mechanism, giving advice as to how one should conduct himself in the operation of person, papers, or effects. That is the extent of the law. Even in Biblical times, men disobeyed the Law of God. And made their own laws. They were allowed to do so, but a remnant of these men intended to follow God's Law, and were very religious to the ceremonial methods prescribed by God to propitiate for their disobedience. Still the Law did not halt impermissible conduct against it. So then, what gave the Law it's force, knowing its source?

So then, apart from the laws of men, human beings have been given the unalienable and inherent ability to coexist with one another. Doing right by each other on the principles of Love. I don't have to stop coveting over your belongings, but I should not act upon such urging. Is there a consequence for so acting? Yes, it is inevitable. But what if I covet and utilize greater force to exact my will? Am I a law breaker? And of whose law?

So then, no government (defined as those people operate in the offices of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches thereof) has been conferred by law to exact its will over the very People it claims to protect and serve, and who are the very source of law that is said to have established such a government.

  • Define "Love". If my child is starving, and I kill you so I can take your food to feed him, is that breaking the principles of Love? I certainly love my child, but you're dead. – Bobson Jul 5 '16 at 2:35

Any evidence that exists must be foundational. Meaning, it must be verifiably true outside the purview of any governing territory. For example, murder is the malicious action to take the life of an individual without their consent. Whereas suicide is an act committed by an individual who consented to taking their own life. Rape is the taking of sex without individual consent whereas consensual sex is the act of… wait for it… consensual sex between people. ;)

Consent is the foundation of all human rights. It stems from individual self-ownership. If all people are created equal by virtue of inalienable rights (those rights which don’t come from government- see 9th Amendment and ‘inalienable rights’), then any laws must acknowledge the self-ownership of all individuals otherwise they are illegitimate (we know that governments are bad about this since they make arbitrary laws which harm people which violated no one else’s rights but merely violated a law- like seat belt laws). Thus, the responsibility lies with the government to prove that their laws trump the individual consent/rights of the people living within arbitrary territories.

For example, using the seat belt law as an example (and pushing aside your personal opinion of the law), the law itself does nothing but punish those who have harmed no one. It punishes those who don’t wear seat belts, an act in and of itself which doesn’t prevent others from wearing seat belts nor violates the rights of others. Thus, the law punishes people that did nothing wrong (remember “No victim, no crime”?). Yet the government claims it can arbitrarily punish people for behaviors it deems punishable for no other reason than you living between its borders.

Let’s turn the tables on government here...

If all people have inalienable rights and no individual can create, strip, or give rights to others, then by what “authority” does a group of people calling itself government derive the ability to force laws on you? If all people are equal, then how it is possible for some people to claim jurisdiction over others living in some arbitrary territory without the expressed individual consent of every single individual within?

So where exactly is the evidence? The Constitution or some other mythical social contract?

Lysander Spooner, in his essay, 'No Treason', makes the argument that the idea of the social contract is an absolute myth by deconstructing the notion of a contract and applying it to individual consent.

No Treason, Spooner

He starts with:

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts.

Fundamentally, Spooner is saying that a group of people can't write and sign a document which suddenly has the power to bind anyone to it that didn't personally consent to it including the signers relatives, siblings, associates, and anyone living between arbitrary territorial borders.

Thus, no court could possibly have evidence to prove they have the ability to force you to live by their rules when you didn’t expressly give them your consent. If you didn’t directly sign the Constitution, or give the government your individual consent to abide by their laws, then there exists no evidence that they can force you to live under their laws. Could you imagine a religion forcing you live by their laws for nothing more than having been born between some borders? It’s a silly notion.

Since consent is foundational to human rights, if some government structure didn’t get your permission to rule you, then you have the fundamental human right to disobey.

Civil Disobedience, Thoreau

That’s not to say the government won’t harm you or punish you for resisting their arbitrary laws.

Fundamentally, the only evidence that could possibly exist is if you actually signed the Constitution or gave your direct, expressed individual consent. No “implied” consent could take the place of your expressed consent without violating your fundamental right to consent.

So unless you're one of the few people on the planet alive today that has signed a national Constitution, or that gave your direct, expressed consent to be governed by those laws... no evidence exists.

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    When you disobey a local law, and you get arrested by the local police force and a local judge sentences you to jail, I'd say that is "evidence" that you should've followed the local law. – abelenky Apr 21 '17 at 21:09
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    This is not an ethical question, so an answer based in ethical theory is off-base. – indigochild Apr 21 '17 at 22:43
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    I have to say, this is the best-argued answer that supports this viewpoint yet to be posted for this question. However, there are two flaws here. The first, as @indigochild points out, is that you (and Spooner) are arguing that the laws are not justified, which is a valid argument to make, but not actually an answer to "Do they apply?" If the question asked whether the laws should apply, this would be a valid answer (but the question would be off-topic). – Bobson Apr 21 '17 at 22:50
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    Secondly, while you're right about not wearing a seatbelt being a "victimless crime", you forgot to mention that you have no inherent right to drive on the government's roads. It's better to think about that law as "If you want to use our roads, you have to follow our rules, even if they're arbitrary." If you decide not to obey the rules, then you're trespassing on someone else's property, and thus violating their rights. – Bobson Apr 21 '17 at 22:57
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    @Bobson but is it a victimless crime? Seatbelt use preserves government resources by reducing the number and severity of injuries caused by automobile accidents. Failing to use a seatbelt, therefore, creates a drain on the public purse. – phoog Apr 22 '17 at 14:43

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