Examples of "criminal anarchy?" (Violent overthrow of the government?

N.Y. PEN. LAW § 240.15 : NY Code - Section 240.15: Criminal anarchy
Search N.Y. PEN. LAW § 240.15 : NY Code - Section 240.15: Criminal anarchy

A person is guilty of criminal anarchy when (a) he advocates the
overthrow of the existing form of government of this state by violence,
or (b) with knowledge of its contents, he publishes, sells or
distributes any document which advocates such violent overthrow, or ©
with knowledge of its purpose, he becomes a member of any organization
which advocates such violent overthrow.

Criminal anarchy is a class E felony.

Class E felonies are the “worst,” I believe, eg, murder, kidnapping, child porn.

Who or what people or groups have been charged/convicted with this crime? I’ve never seen a single example–are assassins of Presidents, Senators, and all the way down also included?

An example from California, 1927:

In Whitney v. California SCOTUS upheld the conviction of a member of the California Communist Party for violations of that state’s Criminal Syndicalism Act.

I thought of Communists and figured there must be some. Not to sidetrack this thread with discussions of Communist theory, but there should be tons of people in jail now based on that.

Looks like a state version of the Smith Act, which penalizes advocating the overthrow of the government and/or membership in an organziation that does. There were indeed members of the Communist Party prosecuted under the Smith Act.

Don’t know anything about anarchy prosecutions, but Class E felonies in New York are actually the least bad variety. Class A is the worst. Here’s the full list according to the N.Y. Penal Law.

So it looks like a conviction for criminal anarchy could get you anything from probation to four years.

I strongly suspect that this law is unenforceable (or should be) on First Amedment grounds. I’m forgetting the specific case/doctrine name, but my hazy recollection is that you can’t prosecute people for this sort of stuff unless they’ve actually got a crowd there and they’ve worked that crowd up into a government-overthrowing frenzy. Someone who knows this bit of the law better than me (Bricker, maybe?) may be along w/ more details–I haven’t given it any thought since my first-year con law class.

Unconscionable jerk-offishness on my part in GQ. (Not snark, except at myself). I apologize for not looking it up first.

So, if you were to walk the streets of manhattan carrying a sign reading “Sack Albany!”, that would be advocating violent overthrow of the state government and thus committing a felony, yet your first amendment rights should protect that sort expression. Even joining an anarchist group (kind of an oxymoron, that) is protected under the first. I suspect there would be no prosecutable offense unless it could be shown that your group was developing a plan, practical or not, to actually attempt the violent coup.

In which case you’d be covered by criminal conspiracy and terrorism offenses, anyway. Though it would be hilarious to see someone charged with conspiracy to commit anarchy.


Hence OP…

Plotting to overthrow the government is by its very definition “against the law”. Then, there were those guys recently who plotted to blow up that Cuyahoga bridge, who were incarcerated for essentially just planning a crime. You may not prepare to commit a crime, even that is illegal, so Anarchists could be charged with that. It is just a matter of planting moles and harvesting enough solid evidence to present a viable case.

I mean, if Albany could not use NYSP et al to prevent insurrection, they would need, like, a moat, a portcullis, cauldrons of hot oil and so forth, in order to prepare for the eventuality. I mean, there will always be the disaffected, that is the nature of society, the leaders just need to keep them in check.

Actually… just planning to commit a crime is not necessarily illegal. I can sit on my back porch with a glass of whisky all afternoon, meticulously plotting out how I would, say, steal the Hope Diamond. Aside from the evidentiary issues (just how did you know what I was thinking, Mr. Prosecutor?), this is in no way a crime. For me to be on the hook for attempted burglary of the Hope Diamond, I have to take a (using the Model Penal Code formulation) substantial step towards comitting that crime. There’s probably quite a few things I could do that wouldn’t amount to a substantial step–I could visit the Smiithsonian, I could buy rope and a grappling hook and a black tacticalneck, I could investigate the best thing to illuminate laser beams… none of those might be a substantial step. On the other hand, catch me on the roof of the Smithsonian in my tacticalneck at 2am, and you’ve probably got me.

Conspiracy, refreshing my memory with a little googling, is rather less lenient. If you form an agreement to commit a crime w/ one or more other people, you’re down for conspiracy whether or not you ever left a finger to achieve your goals. In effect, the agreement itself is the crime. I’m sure my crim law prof gave me a good explanation of why this is so and no action is required, but bugger me if I can remember it.

Anyway, plotting the overthrow of the government itself is, so long as you don’t do anything about it, not necessarily a crime. If you agree with your neighbor to overthrow the government, poof, it is.