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August 18, 2015

California Strengthens Laws Against “Paper Terrorism”

California governor Jerry Brown signed into law this past week a new measure designed to increase protection for Californians from the so-called “paper terrorism” tactics of anti-government extremists.ab1267

Members of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement often file bogus liens or other similar documents in order to encumber the property of their enemies in retaliation for some perceived wrongdoing. Although filing a bogus lien is a crime in California, once such harassing liens are filed, it still takes significant time and money for victims to get them removed—which is why they are so effective as a retaliatory tactic.

In the 1990s, California enacted legislation to provide a fast-track removal process for such bogus encumbrances. However, the law only applied to public officials or employees, common victims of such sovereign citizen tactics.

Now, thanks to Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D- Santa Monica), who sponsored the bill, California’s laws will extend fast track protection to private individuals and businesses who are targets of “paper terrorism.”

Additionally, the new law will allow anyone targeted by a false encumbrance to seek civil remedies up to $5,000. With this legislation, California joins the 25 other states that have passed similar laws.

The Anti-Defamation League proposed and drafted the measure and, early in the process, helped gain support for it from a number of organizations, including the California District Attorneys Association and the California Police Chiefs Association.

The bill received bi-partisan and unanimous support in both the Assembly and Senate.

Sovereign citizens believe that government has no authority over them because an insidious conspiracy infiltrated and replaced the original legitimate government with an illegitimate, tyrannical one. They claim to owe allegiance only to the “original” government. Consequently, sovereigns often claim that they are outside the jurisdiction of the “illegitimate” government and that they can ignore all laws and regulations.

In addition to “paper terrorism” crimes, sovereigns engage in other illegal activity ranging from scams and frauds to deadly shootouts and standoffs.

The mortgage crisis and the recession of 2008 sparked a surge in the sovereign citizen movement, who exploited the economic situation to grow in numbers and activity. The Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit of the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office, for example, has estimated that their current case load consists of 85% sovereign citizen cases.

ADL tracks the activities of the sovereign citizen movement and has trained tens of thousands of law enforcement officers, government officials, prosecutors and judges about the movement’s ideology, activities and illegal tactics, including terrorism and deadly violence.

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April 20, 2012

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.

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