HI House Bill 2920 | NNA
Law

HI House Bill 2920

Notary Law Update: HI House Bill 2920

State: Hawaii

Summary:

House Bill 2920 aims to reduce frauds associated with notarized documents by defining certain offenses and prescribing fines for violations. This new law also penalizes a Notary for including as an element of the official seal any other information but the Notary’s name and the words “Notary Public” and “State of Hawaii,” but the Attorney General has indicated that this provision will not be enforced, because it conflicts with the new Administrative Rule requiring a commission number in every Notary seal.

Signed:  June 13, 2008

Effective:  January 01, 2009

Chapter: Act No. 2009-175

Affects:

Creates four as yet uncodified Sections to Chapter 456, and two as yet uncodified Sections to Chapter 710 and amends Sections 456-7, 456-8, 456-9, 456-9.5 and 456-15 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes

Changes:
  1. Provides new definitions of “alter,” “personally knowing” and “proof of the signer’s identity.”
  2. Grants the Attorney General authority to: (a) Issue Notary commissions; (b) Adopt, amend or repeal administrative rules; (c) Suspend or revoke a Notary commission for cause or violation of Hawaii’s laws and rules, and refuse to issue commissions for any cause that would be grounds for suspension or revocation of a commission; and (4d Impose administrative fines for any cause prescribed by Chapter 456 of the HRS or for any violation that would constitute grounds for the suspension or revocation of a commission.
  3. Defines and classifies the offense of a “failure to verify the identity and signature” as follows: (a) If the Notary is a witness to the signing of the instrument, the Notary fails to verify the identity of the signer through personal knowledge or comparing the personal appearance of the signer with satisfactory proof of the signer’s identity; (b) If the Notary is not a witness to the signing of the instrument, the Notary fails to verify the identity of the signer by personal knowledge or by comparing the personal appearance of the signer with satisfactory proof of the signer’s identity; or a failure to verify the signature of the signer by recognizing the signature of the signer by personal familiarity with the signature; or a failure to compare the signature with satisfactory proof of the signer’s signature; (c) A violation is a misdemeanor; and (d) A violation shall result in the automatic revocation of the Notary’s commission.
  4. Defines and classifies the offense of a “failure to authenticate with a certification statement” as follows: (a) A Notary’s failure to include in the Notary’s certification statement of a notarial act the date and signature of the Notary, the printed name and seal of the Notary, identification of the jurisdiction in which the notarization is performed, identification or a description of the document being notarized, placed in close proximity to the acknowledgment or jurat certificate, and a statement of the number of pages and date of the document; (b) A violation is a misdemeanor; and (c) A violation shall result in the automatic revocation of the Notary’s commission.
  5. Defines and classifies the offense of “misrepresenting a notarized document in the first degree” as follows: (a) A person submits or invites reliance on a document that the person knows has been altered after the document has been notarized; (b) The offense was committed with intent to mislead a public servant or for purpose of commercial or private financial gain; and (c) A violation is a Class C felony.
  6. Repeals a previous fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, for willfully assuming the duties of a Notary without having complied with the requirements for a commission in Chapter 456 HRS.
  7. Defines and classifies the offense of “unauthorized practice as a Notary Public” as follows: (a) A Notary commits unauthorized practice as a Notary Public by knowingly engaging in or offering to engage in any duties of a Notary without having been appointed and commissioned as a Notary, filing a copy of the commission, an impression of the official seal and a specimen of the Notary’s signature with the clerk of the circuit court in the circuit in which the Notary resides, and executing an official bond; (b) A violation is a misdemeanor; and (c) A violation shall not restrict or remove liability for civil damages.
  8. Authorizes the Attorney General to prescribe rules necessary to prevent the fraudulent use of a notarized document after placement of the Notary’s seal.
  9. Prescribes the administrative fines the Attorney General may impose and collect for a Notary’s failure to: (a) Maintain an official seal of one type (engraved seal or rubber stamp) with only the name of the Notary, the words “Notary Public” and “State of Hawaii” appearing on the seal ($20); (b) Surrender the Notary’s seal and certificate to the Attorney General within ninety days of resignation, removal from office or expiration of the Notary’s term without renewal ($200); (c) Record in a journal all notarial acts as prescribed by section HRS 456-15 and applicable rules ($200); (d) Authenticating every acknowledgment or jurat with a certificate signed and dated by the Notary, and which includes the printed name and official seal of the Notary, the jurisdiction in which the notarial act is performed, a description of the document in close proximity to the acknowledgment or jurat and the number of pages and date of the document ($500); (e) Surrender the journal or journals to the Attorney General within ninety days of the end date of the commission, resignation, or removal from office ($500); and (f) Notify the Attorney General within ten days after loss, misplacement, or theft of the notary seal, or journal, inform the appropriate law enforcement agency in the case of theft, and provide a copy of the law enforcement agency’s report of the theft to the Attorney General ($20).
  10. Requires a Notary to add the following to the information required in each journal entry: the journal the nature of the act, transaction or thing to which the document being notarized relates.
Analysis:

House Bill 2920 is enacted into law just after the Attorney General had published comprehensive Administrative Rules for the conduct of Hawaii Notaries. HB 2920 attempts to reduce frauds associated with notarial acts by defining certain violations and prescribing penalties. The new law now requires Notaries to include a statement on each notarial certificate that describes the document being notarized; this should appear close to the acknowledgment or jurat certificate wording — a step the NNA has recommended as a best practice for years, as encouraged by the Notary completing the “optional” section of NNA “loose” certificates. A failure to include this statement could result in a $500 administrative fine. As mentioned in New Law Alert 19-08 (June 17, 2008), this new law contains a provision which would conflict with the recently published Administrative Rule which requires Notaries to include the commission number as an element in the seal: HB 2920 provides that a Notary may be fined $20 for including any other words in the seal other than the name of the Notary and the words “Notary Public” and “State of Hawaii.” However, Deputy Attorney General Shari Wong has told the NNA that this provision will not be enforced and that the Attorney General will require a commission number in very Notary seal.

Read the bill text.

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