PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - There are dozens of legal specialty Florida license plates, but according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, the Little Shell Band of North America, or Pembina Nation plate is not one of them. “It’s going to be a court battle,” Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office Bob Carpenter said. “It's happening all over the country.”
While it's not a federally recognized tribe, members claim they are a “sovereign nation,” exempt from laws everybody else has to abide by. The nation issues its own license plates and registration cards. The problem is, they're not recognized because drivers aren't paying registration, insurance or taxes.
This past Friday, a deputy spotted one on John McCombs’ motorcycle. When the deputy asked McCombs for his license and registration, McCombs pulled out a Pembina Nation vehicle registration along with a letter of Diplomatic Immunity in reference to his license.
The Sheriff’s Office says neither are recognized in Florida or the U.S. The Punta Gorda man was arrested for driving without a license, driving without registration, and driving on a cancelled license.
Is that essentially driving without a license or registration? “In our eyes, that's true,” Carpenter said. “In their eyes, it's not. It's a darned if you do, darned if you don't kind of a thing, but we have to go by our laws.”
McCombs refused to answer any questions at the jail. We stopped by his home to see if he'd answer some of our questions. All we found were "no trespassing" signs.
After the story aired, McCombs called WINK to say his license is legitimate and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office was mistaken. He may consider taking them to court.
Carpenter says deputies are just enforcing the law and that the courts will ultimately decide.