Notary Bulletin

Authorities Increase Watch On 'Sovereign Citizen' Movement

The FBI, Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies in several states are keeping an eye on the growing “sovereign citizen” movement  individuals who believe the United States government is an “illegal corporation” and they are, therefore, not constrained by its laws.

The ideology of this movement is spreading via the Internet. Although lacking a defined leadership, loosely formed groups of sovereign citizens are encouraging each other to refuse to pay taxes, fines or licensing fees. They are known to use notarizations to attempt to legitimize their claims, and those notarization requests often involve the filing of the arcane “protests” to avoid paying taxes or certain fees.

The filings can run into hundreds of pages with the express purpose of clogging court dockets and slowing an already over-burdened judicial system. The filing of a legitimate protest is a rare notarial act today due to the use of modern technology by financial institutions. It is also complicated and may involve actions that are not authorized, requiring advice from a licensed attorney before the notarial act can be completed. Utah signed a law in 2010 prohibiting authentication of sovereign citizen “protests.”

Notaries are empowered to decline unethical or illegal requests by sovereign citizens. The following FBI guidelines may help you determine if your signer is a part of the movement:

  • The document is written only in a certain color, such as red crayon.
  • Personal names are spelled in all capital letters or interspersed with colons; i.e. JOHN SMITH or Smith: John.
  • Signatures are followed by the words “under duress.”
  • Personal seals, stamps or thumbprints are in red ink.
  • A fraudulent driver’s license is presented for identification.

For more information, view the FBI’s report on the sovereign citizens movement.

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Quiz: The Many Types Of Notarial Acts

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