Georgia Passes Tougher Bogus Lien Law » ADL Blogs
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April 20, 2012 0

Georgia Passes Tougher Bogus Lien Law

A new mea­sure came into force in Geor­gia this week, when Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 997, mak­ing it a felony to file bogus liens against pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment offi­cers. The act amends the Geor­gia code to cre­ate a new crime, that of mak­ing false lien state­ments against pub­lic offi­cers or pub­lic employ­ees, and pro­vides a pun­ish­ment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
The bill had orig­i­nally been spon­sored by a group of Repub­li­can state rep­re­sen­ta­tives and received strong bipar­ti­san sup­port in both the Geor­gia House and Sen­ate. The aim of the bill was to help counter the grow­ing prob­lems caused by the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, an extreme right-wing anti-government move­ment whose adher­ents believe that cur­rent gov­ern­ments are ille­git­i­mate and have no author­ity over them. Though the move­ment has existed since the 1970s, in the past few years it has expe­ri­enced a sur­pris­ing resur­gence, includ­ing a growth of vio­lent and crim­i­nal activity.



Por­tion of doc­u­ment filed by Robert Eugene Stephens
attempt­ing to copy­right his own name,
a com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen tactic


Though the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment has a strong asso­ci­a­tion with vio­lence, it has an even stronger asso­ci­a­tion with what has come to be called “paper terrorism”—the use of bogus legal fil­ings or doc­u­ments or the mis­use of actual ones in order to harass, intim­i­date, or retal­i­ate against per­ceived enemies.

For 30 years, bogus liens have been one of the most pop­u­lar paper ter­ror­ism tac­tics, often used to harass police offi­cers, pros­e­cu­tors, offi­cials, and judges with whom sov­er­eign cit­i­zens come into con­tact. To give one recent Geor­gia exam­ple, in Octo­ber 2011 Geor­gia Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion agents arrested sov­er­eign cit­i­zen Robert Eugene Stephens of Min­eral Bluff on 12 crim­i­nal counts related to a series of bogus liens Stephens allegedly filed against a vari­ety of local and state offi­cials, includ­ing a county clerk, a local judge and her sec­re­tary, the county tax com­mis­sioner, and even the Speaker of the Geor­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (which prob­a­bly didn’t hurt the chance the sub­se­quent law had of passing).

A num­ber of states still don’t have bogus lien laws on their books, while the laws of other states make the crime only a mis­de­meanor and some states with bogus lien laws have been lax in enforc­ing them. The result has been a flood of bogus liens across the entire coun­try in the past sev­eral years.

The Geor­gia law could still be strength­ened fur­ther, as it does not pro­tect pri­vate cit­i­zens and busi­nesses, who also can be the vic­tim of bogus liens filed by sov­er­eign cit­i­zens.