One thing that Sons of Anarchy definitely gets right about outlaw motorcycle clubs is the seemingly byzantine number of rules that the average member has to follow.
Before watching Sons of Anarchy, you might never have expected that motorcycle clubs were heavily regimented organizations, with clearly defined roles and traditions.
These rules come from the swathe of motorcycle clubs that sprung up in U.S. in the aftermath of World War II. Returning veterans founded motorcycle clubs that focused on racing, drinking, and long rides across the country.
Clubs that are now steeped in tradition put in place strict, military-like rules that members had to follow.
This aspect of biker culture provided a catalyst for show creator Kurt Sutter to create gut-churning drama week-in week-out for 7 seasons.
Sutter revealed to The Verge magazine that he was “fascinated by the irony of motorcycle clubs. Because they say they’re all about 'ride free' … But within the structure of these outlaw clubs, there are more rules and regulations than you or I have. They’re like little military units. And I love the irony of that."
The rules, processes, and traditions that members have to obey provide much of the dramatic tension in Sons of Anarchy, whether this involves the tension around a clubhouse vote, how members are expected to behave, or disagreements with how the President is running things.
As you might expect for an outlaw motorcycle club, the punishment for breaking any of these rules is uncompromising, with most clubs demanding the upmost respect and obediance. SAMCRO is no exception.
With that said, here are the 18 Rules SAMCRO Members Are Forced to Obey In Sons Of Anarchy.
18 No bike, no vote
Surprisingly, there are many laws and procedures that govern a motorcycle club - whether they be the numerous by-laws that members have to obey or a club's hierarchy, which includes positions such as Treasurer and Sergeant at Arms.
This is a far cry from the free spirits of Easy Rider that cruised America’s highways in the '60s.
For organizations that many consider lawless, there are actually rules in place that state that every decision that affects club business is voted on at regular meetings.
Acting as judge and mediator, it is the club President who casts the deciding vote in any tie. There’s even someone who takes the meeting minutes.
However, not all members can vote. Prospects, who exist near the bottom of a motorcycle club’s food chain, cannot vote on club business.
Fully-patched members who lose their Harleys also cannot vote.
This makes some sense – no bike, no vote.
17 Club decisions apply to everyone, even the President
For an outlaw biker gang, SAMCRO is a surprisingly democratic organization.
All club decisions are voted on at the clubhouse around a specially built table, which is complete with the club’s colours carved into its top.
The President even has a gavel to hammer down when passing votes and minutes are taken.
This all means that all members have to abide by the club rules, even the President.
Of course, sometimes a decision doesn’t sit right with the President. When the club voted on whether to take out Clay Morrow after the full depth of the former President’s betray became known, a unanimous vote was needed.
However, Bobby abstained from the vote, which led to the club merely stripping Clay of his patches.
Unsurprisingly, club President Jax was furious with Bobby. However, this still didn’t matter, though, as the rules are the rules.
16 No hard substances
SAMCRO definitely engages in many shady businesses: there’s gun running, adult movies, and the protection business, to name a few.
One criminal activity that they’ve been historically wary of is anything to do with hard substances.
Sure, members can indulged themselves, but dealing in substances was a strict no-no.
However, an exception to this was Juice’s fumbling attempts to unload the pharmaceutical substances that he got from Piney’s dealer friend.
This all changes in the show’s fourth season, however, when Clay involves SAMCRO in substance-running for the Galindo cartel through Danny Trejo's Romeo Parada.
Things come to a head in a tense vote that is narrowly passed when Clay brokers a deal with Jax to carry the vote. This leads to a spiral of betrayal and violence that eventually leads to Clay being hospitalized and stripped of his President patch.
15 Obey the prison clause
SAMCRO members will, in all probability, spend some time in the big house. That’s just how it goes when you’re a part of a criminal organization that indulges in a bit of gun running, arson, and other illegal activities.
By becoming a member, you also tacitly agree to obey the "prison clause."
This unwritten law says that when you end up doing some time for the club, and you will, your old lady is free to engage in romantic liaisons with other club members.
Otto Delaney’s wife invoked the clause so that she could get with Bobby "Elvis" Munson. The incarcerated man is never told, but even if he did find out, there’s nothing he could do about it.
14 Prospects are basically servants
Becoming a fully-patched member of a motorcycle gang requires dedication and discipline, and becoming a member of SAMCRO is no exception.
Being a prospect is like being a pledge in a fraternity, only it can take years for a prospect to become fully-patched.
During this time, they have to show they have the discipline involved in becoming a member, all the while doing anything that is asked of them by the club President.
Sons of Anarchy’s most notable patch was "Half-Sack" Epps, who was given the most undesirable tasks for the first two seasons.
This involved being bullied into entering a bare-knuckled boxing contest and seeing Clay pull rank to get with Cherry.
However, Half-Sack more than earned his membership when he was sadly taken out while protecting Tara and Abel from members of the Real IRA.
13 Wear patches at all times
Patches are incredibly important for any self-respecting member of a motor cycle club, including SAMCRO.
Stitched onto a member’s leathers, patches indicate their club, position, and other notable achievements. Being without your patches on the road or on club business is a serious faux pas.
To be stripped of them is one of the worst punishments a club can inflict on wayward members.
On the back of a member’s leathers are three patches: a top rocker indicating the individual's club (i.e. Sons of Anarchy), colours (club logo), and a bottom rocker indicating their territory (in SAMCRO's case, California).
Like other outlaw motorcycle clubs, SAMCRO members also sport a "one-percenter" patch, which is a response to the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) insistence that 99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens.
12 Ride in formation
You might think that being a member of a motorcycle club is a license to ride the nation’s highways doing whatever you wanted. However, and like most aspects of motorcycle clubs, even club rides have their own rules.
When out on a run, the President or Vice-President will lead the club formation, which is why we normally see Clay or Jax out in front.
If they’re not on the ride, then the Road Captain, who is responsible for planning runs, will be at the front of the formation.
Some clubs also have a tail-gunner. This person is responsible for riding at the rear of the formation, enforcing road safety, assisting if any members need mechanical help, and even carry a first-aid kit in case of injury out on the road.
11 Restricted to territory
Motorcycle clubs are hugely territorial, with many taking control of specific areas or states.
In Sons of Anarchy, this is reflected with the Mayans controlling northern California and Nevada, with the exception of Las Vegas.
SAMCRO controls California, although in the show, it can sometimes feel like they just ride around the small town of Charming.
The bottom rocker – part of the patches club members wear on the back of their jackets – tells the world what territory they’ve claimed.
Riding into the territory of another club is a serious provocation. While smaller clubs are sometimes allowed to operate in a territory, disputes between big clubs can turn ugly, which is what happened when both The Banditos and Cossacks claimed ownership of the great state of Texas.
10 Must ride a Harley
Motorcycles come in many shapes and sizes, but for the members of Sons of Anarchy M.C., their bikes have to be a Harley Davison motorcycles.
While there might occasionally be a case for riding a bike that is not a Harley, it usually turns out that these bikes will still be made by companies owned by Harley Davidson.
The Harley love can be traced back to the formation of motorcycle clubs after World War II. At the time, members were made up of veterans who wanted to show their patriotism by riding American-made hogs.
While SAMCRO was founded after the Vietnam War by the first 9, the requirement to ride a Harley remained.
Club President Jax Teller rides a 2003 Harley Davidson Dyna-Glide Super Glide Sport, while former-President Clay and Opie also ride a version of this iconic ride.
Even Piney’s trike is a Harley, which has been customised to carry around his O2 canister.
9 Loyalty to the club comes first
When you’re in a motorcycle club, loyalty to the club comes first - everything else is secondary, even family.
However, being in SAMCRO is akin to having a surrogate family, with Clay Morrow and his wife, or "old lady," Gemma, playing the father and mother roles respectively.
They even have club members around for big family meals.
This loyalty is most dramatically shown in Opie’s character-arc over the first two seasons of the show.
Having recently been released from prison, Opie is trying to go straight at the behest of wife Donna and put his club days behind him.
However, this is difficult for this second-generation club member. Not only is his dad, Piney, a founding member, but his best-friend is club Vice-President Jax Teller.
Once his wife Donna, who had been advocating for Opie to put his SAMCRO days behind him, is mistakenly taken out by Tig, Opie fully immerses himself back into the world of SAMCRO.
8 Respect club hierarchy
Something that Sons of Anarchy gets right is that motorcycle clubs are hierarchical organizations, with different ranks and levels of seniority.
At the top is the President, who is in charge of the club and sets the club's direction. By the time the show ended, audiences had seen three club Presidents (Clay, Jax, and Chibs).
Next on the list is the Vice-President, who is often the heir-apparent, as was the case with Jax Teller.
Other positions include the Sergeant at Arms, who is responsible for club discipline and security at events. This position was held by Tig in the show.
Bobby "Elvis" Munson acted as the club’s treasurer. He was responsible for collecting membership fees and handling proceeds from any illegal activity.
Overall, SAMCRO is pretty organized for a criminal organization that liked to drink and ride bikes.
The bottom line for any patched-in member is that they have to respect club hierarchy unless they want to become nomads.
7 Do what the club President says
Being a member of SAMCRO isn’t all acting tough, riding bikes, and harassing the good people of Charming, California. No, there’s work to be done – most of it illegal, and most of it on the orders of the club President.
Whether it's Jax Teller or Clay Morrow calling the shots, if the club President says to get him a soda, then you have to do it.
If the club President steers the motorcycle club towards trafficking substances, then you better go along with that too.
So when former President Clay ordered Tig to get rid of Opie based on the bogus information that Opie was a snitch, Tig was forced to obeyed his President.
Tragically, this ended with Opie’s wife Donna in the firing line instead. In Sons of Anarchy, most orders carried out on the behest of the club President typically ended in tragedy.
6 Respect the authority of the Mother Chapter
Like other motorcycle clubs, Sons of Anarchy M.C has chapters all over the world. Notable chapters include SAMBEL (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Belfast), SAMDINO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club San Bernardino), and the Indian Hills Chapter in Nevada.
All of them have their own club structure, members, and rules.
However, despite their relative autonomy, these offshoots have to respect the Mother Chapter, SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals).
The President of SAMCRO is also the National President and holds authority over all chapters in the U.S.
This can be seen in the deference that other chapters, including their Presidents, hold when they come into contact with Clay Morrow or Jax Teller during their respective presidencies.
5 Ex-members can’t have SAMCRO tattoos
Most SAMCRO members sport elaborate tattoos showing off their club allegiance. One of the most elaborate is Jax Teller’s full-back tattoo that displays the club’s colours.
Any excommunicated member is expected to have their tattoos removed at the earliest opportunity, unless they want to experience the club’s wrath.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
When former club President Clay Morrow is finally voted out of the club, it is left to Tig to black out the disgraced President’s tattoos.
Clay can consider himself lucky, however, as disgraced former SAMCRO member Kyle Hobart was given the choice of having his tattoos cut off or burnt off.
Begging didn’t help the hapless Hobart, either, as he experienced the hot end of a blowtorch before being dumped outside a hospital for treatment.
4 Can’t patch non-whites
One of the most controversial aspects of outlaw motorcycle clubs are the rules surrounding the patching-in of non-white members.
Historically, the Hells Angels wouldn’t admit black or Hispanic males as members, and women of all races could forget about being patched.
Although this policy has loosened over time, especially in European chapters, it is rare that you will see a patched non-white club member.
Sons of Anarchy reflects this repugnant unwritten law since SAMCRO being made up of all white members.
There’s even a storyline in season 4 where the Feds strong arm Juice into working for them, threatening Juice that they'll reveal that his dad is really black, making him illegible for the club.
This also explains that when we see a rival gang in the show, they are similarly segregated along ethnic lines, the most obvious example being The Mayans.
Thankfully, this all changes when Jax patches in T.O. Cross.
3 No snitches
Blabbing about SAMCRO business to anyone is a strict no-no and the punishment for loose lips is severe, to say the least.
In the first season, even Opie, Jax’s best friend, was suspected of being a snitch. This led to the order being passed down to take out Opie, which tragically led to his wife, Donna, being in the firing line.
Perhaps the worst snitch of all is Juice Ortiz, who betrays the club to the law in season four.
Identified as a weak link in the club by AUSA Potter and Sheriff Roosevelt, Juice is blackmailed into supplying incriminating evidence in exchange for his true heritage not being revealed to the Sons.
The whole sorry saga starts Juice on a downward path that eventually involves him stealing from the club, betraying Jax, and becoming a victim of Marilyn Manson’s Tully.
2 Don’t harm another member’s pet
Motorcycle gang members are tough individuals, there's no doubt about it - and members of SAMCRO are no exception.
They are men of mayhem, as they are the one-percenters who don’t follow anyone’s rules – well, except the complicated rules governing the club.
However, one thing that a member definitely doesn’t do is hurt another member’s pet.
However, such a despicable act did actually happen at one point in Sons of Anarchy.
It is eventually revealed that Nomad Herman Kozik had caused harm to Tig’s pet dog Missy.
This led to Tig voting to deny Herman entry into SAMCRO when he pitched up to the clubhouse in season 3 with his transfer papers.
The two finally reconciled when Kozik did time in Stockton Penitentiary at the start of season 4.
Sadly, this reunion didn’t last long, though, as Kozik stepped on a landmine a few episodes later.
1 Never leave a brother behind
Members SAMCRO are like brothers. Sure, they argue and fight, but at the end of the day, they’ve always got each other’s back.
When they're out committing numerous criminal activities, you can be sure that they won't leave another member to face the law on their own.
After all, the punishment for abandoning another member is severe.
For example, take Kyle Hobart, a former Son, who committed arson while on club business with Opie. When the police arrived on the scene, Kyle fled, leaving Opie alone to face the cops.
Kyle’s punishment was excommunication from the motorcycle club. Normally, this also involves having any club tattoos coloured out.
However, chicken that Kyle is, he just couldn’t do it. Unfortunately for him, SAMCRO eventually caught up with him and Tig offered Kyle a more barbaric form of tattoo removal: a blow-torch or the knife.
Can you think of any other rules that members of SAMCRO have to follow in Sons of Anarchy? Let us know in the comments!