California Strengthens Laws Against “Paper Terrorism”

  • August 18, 2015

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.


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.