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Lawless Ones: The Resurgence of the Sovereign Citizen Movement

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2010
33 pages
This report describes the features and activities of the sovereign citizen movement (SCM), an extreme anti-government movement whose members believe the government has no authority over them.
Although its sister movement, the militia movement, receives more publicity, the SCM has grown larger than the militia movement and engages in more criminal activity. The criminal activity of SCM includes violence, manifested in the recent murders of two West Memphis police officers by a SCM father-and-son pair in May 2010. Spontaneous violence against police officers by SCM adherents is likely to occur during traffic stops and visits to residences where SCM adherents live. More widespread than violence, however, is the tactic known as "paper terrorism," which involves SCM adherents using legal filings to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against public officials, law enforcement officers, and others. A common tactic in this regard is the filing of bogus liens on the property of perceived enemies. Recently, members of the SCM have been exploiting the foreclosure crisis, crisscrossing the Nation promoting schemes and scams to desperate homeowners while falsely claiming that such schemes can save people's homes. Some members are even seizing houses left empty because of foreclosures and claiming them for their own. Imprisoned SCM members recruit and teach their ideology in prison, and a growing number of Federal and State prisoners are becoming sovereign citizens or using the "paper terrorism" tactics of the movement to retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and others involved in their cases. Although the SCM is still composed largely of White members, in recent years an African-American offshoot of the SCM, often called the "Moorish" movement, has been growing. Recent SCM incidents are described by State.