RI House Bill 7502/Senate Bill 2560 | NNA
Law

RI House Bill 7502/Senate Bill 2560

Notary Law Update: RI House Bill 7502/Senate Bill 2560

State: Rhode Island

Summary:

House Bill 7502/Senate Bill 2560 enacts a modified version of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA).

Signed:  June 29, 2018

Effective:  January 01, 2019

Chapter: 104 and 109, respectively

Affects:

Adds Chapter 30.1 to, amends Sections 42-30-3, 42-30-4, 42-30-5, 42-30-7, 42-30-10 of and 42-30-11, and repeals Sections 42-30-8, 42-30-9, 42-30-12, 42-30-13, 42-30-14, 42-30-15 and 4230-16 of The Rhode Island General Laws.

Changes:

Definitions

  1. Defines “acknowledgment,” “commissioning agency,” “commissioning officer,” “electronic,” “electronic signature,” “in a representative capacity,” “notarial act,” “notarial officer,” notary,” “official stamp,” “person,” “record,” “sign,” “signature,” “stamping device,” “state,” “verification on oath or affirmation.”

Commissioning

  1. Provides that an individual qualifies to be commissioned as a Notary by meeting the following qualifications: (a) be at least eighteen (18) years of age; (b) be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States; (c) be a resident of or have a place of employment or practice in Rhode Island; (d) be able to read and write English; (e) not be disqualified to receive a commission under § 42-30.1-16; and (f) demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the powers and duties pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 30.1 of Title 42.
  2. Provides that a member in good standing of the Rhode Island Bar and certified public accountants under § 5-3.1-5, shall, regardless of residence, be appointed a Notary upon application and presentment of a certified copy of their certificate of admission to the Bar or certificate of public accountancy.
  3. Authorizes every state senator, state representative, member of a city or town council, chief, deputy, and assistant clerk of any state court, clerks of the board of canvassers and workers' compensation court, municipal clerks and the board of canvassers registrar to  be appointed a Notary following election, appointment or hiring, as applicable, and upon application and presentment of reasonable evidence of office or employment, and to retain appointment throughout the uninterrupted duration and term of office, appointment or employment; and further provides that these applicants are not required to pay an application fee but must complete an oath of office, except upon reappointment.
  4. Allows the chief of policy from each state and local police department to have two police officers commissioned as Notaries Public.
  5. Requires every applicant for a Notary commission to execute an oath of office and submit it to the commissioning agency.
  6. Provides that every Notary appointed by the commissioning officer and not reappointed, may continue to officiate for a space of thirty (30) days after the date on which their commission expires.
  7. Clarifies that a Notary commission does not provide the Notary any immunity or benefit conferred by Rhode Island law on public officials or employees.
  8. Authorizes the commissioning officer to deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend or impose a condition on a commission as Notary for any act or omission that demonstrates the individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a Notary, including without limitation: (a) failure to comply with Chapter 30.1 of Title 42; (b) a fraudulent, dishonest, or deceitful misstatement or omission in the application for a commission as a Notary submitted to the commissioning officer and/or agency; (c) a conviction of the applicant or Notary of any crime which involves fraud, dishonesty, or deceit; provided that in determining whether to deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend or condition the commission, the commissioning officer must consider such factors as the seriousness of the crime; whether the crime relates directly to the training and skills needed for the commission of a Notary; how much time has elapsed since the crime was committed; and the applicant's actions and conduct since the crime was committed; (d) a finding against, or admission of liability by, the applicant or Notary in any legal proceeding or disciplinary action based on the applicant's or Notary's fraud, dishonesty, or deceit; (e) use of false or misleading advertising or representation by the Notary representing that the Notary has a duty, right, or privilege that the Notary does not have; (f) denial, refusal to renew, revocation, suspension or conditioning of a Notary commission in another state; or (g) termination or revocation of a certificate of admission to the Rhode Island Bar or a certificate of public accountancy.
  9. Provides that if the commissioning officer denies, refuses to renew, revokes, suspends or imposes conditions on a commission as a Notary, the applicant or Notary is entitled to timely notice and hearing in accordance with Chapter 35 of Title 42.
  10. Clarifies that the authority of the commissioning officer to deny, refuse to renew, suspend, revoke or impose conditions on a commission as a Notary does not prevent a person from seeking and obtaining other criminal or civil remedies provided by law.

Notarial Acts

  1. Defines “notarial act” as including taking an acknowledgment, administering an oath or affirmation, taking a verification on oath or affirmation, witnessing or attesting a signature, certifying or attesting a copy, noting a protest of a negotiable instrument and transacting, doing and finishing all matters and things relating to protests, and all other matters within their office required by law, and taking a deposition.
  2. Clarifies that in taking an acknowledgment a notarial officer must determine, from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the individual, that the individual appearing before the officer and making the acknowledgment has the identity claimed and that the signature on the record is the signature of the individual.
  3. Clarifies that in taking a verification of a statement on oath or affirmation a notarial officer must determine, from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the individual, that the individual appearing before the notarial officer and making the verification has the identity claimed and that the signature on the statement verified is the signature of the individual.
  4. Clarifies that in witnessing or attesting a signature a notarial officer must determine, from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the individual, that the individual appearing before the notarial officer and signing the record has the identity claimed.
  5. Requires that if a notarial act relates to a statement made in or a signature executed upon a record, the individual making the statement or executing the signature must appear personally before the notarial officer.
  6. Permits a notarial officer to refusing to perform a notarial act if the notarial officer is not satisfied that: (a) the individual executing the record is competent or has the capacity to execute the record or (b) the individual's signature is knowingly and voluntarily made.
  7. Permits a notarial officer to refuse to perform a notarial act unless refusal is prohibited by law other than Chapter 30.1 of Title 42.
  8. Provides that if an individual is physically unable to sign a record, the individual may direct an individual other than the notarial officer to sign the individual's name on the record, and further requires the notarial officer to insert "Signature affixed by (name of other individual) at the direction of (name of individual)" or words of similar import.

Identification of Signers

  1. Defines “personal knowledge of identity” to mean that the notarial officer has personal knowledge of an individual through dealings sufficient to provide reasonable certainty regarding the legal identity of the individual.
  2. Defines “satisfactory evidence of identity” as (a) a passport, driver's license, or government issued non-driver identification card, which is current or expired not more than three (3) years before performance of the notarial act; or (b) another form of government identification issued to an individual, which is current or expired not more than three (3) years before performance of the notarial act, contains the signature or a photograph of the individual, and is satisfactory to the notarial officer.
  3. Provides that a notarial officer may require an individual to provide additional information or identification credentials necessary to assure the notarial officer of the identity of the individual.

Recognition of Notarial Acts

  1. Provides that the signature and title of an individual performing a notarial act in Rhode Island are prima facie evidence that the signature is genuine and the that the individual holds the designated title.
  2. Provides rules for recognizing the notarial acts of notarial officers of other U.S. states, the federal government and foreign governments.

Official Stamp

  1. Requires the official stamp of a Notary: (a) to include the Notary's name, the words "Notary Public," the Notary's jurisdiction, and other information required by the rules of the commissioning agency; and (b) be capable of being copied together with the record to which it is affixed or attached or with which it is logically associated;
  2. Provides that the provision of requirements of an official stamp shall not preclude a notarial officer who is a member of the general assembly of Rhode Island from notarizing a document without the use of a stamp on the floor of the general assembly during open session.

Notarization of Electronic Records

  1. Permits a Notary to select one or more tamper-evident technologies to perform notarial acts with respect to electronic records.
  2. Prohibits a person from requiring a Notary to perform a notarial act with respect to an electronic record with a technology that the Notary has not selected.
  3. Requires a Notary to notify the commissioning agency that the Notary will be performing notarial acts with respect to electronic records and identify the technology the Notary intends to use before the Notary performs the Notary’s initial notarial act with respect to an electronic record.
  4. Provides that if the commissioning agency has established standards for approval of technology, such technology must conform to the standards, and further provides that if the technology conforms to the standards, the commissioning agency shall approve the use of the technology.

Prohibited Acts

  1. Provides that a Notary commission does not authorize an individual to (a) assist persons in drafting legal records, give legal advice, or otherwise practice law; (b) act as an immigration consultant or an expert on immigration matters; (c) represent a person in a judicial or administrative proceeding relating to immigration to the United States, United States citizenship, or related matters; or (d) receive compensation for performing any of the activities listed in this subsection.
  2. Prohibits a Notary from engaging in false or deceptive advertising.
  3. Prohibits a Notary, other than an attorney licensed to practice law in Rhode Island, from using the term "notario" or "notario publico."
  4. Prohibits a Notary, other than an attorney licensed to practice law in Rhode Island, from advertising or representing that the Notary may assist persons in drafting legal records, give legal advice, or otherwise practice law.
  5. Provides that if a Notary who is not an attorney licensed to practice law in Rhode Island in any manner advertises or represents that the Notary offers notarial services, whether orally or in a record, including broadcast media, print media, and the Internet, the Notary must include the following statement, or an alternate statement authorized or required by the commissioning agency, in the advertisement or representation, prominently and in each language used in the advertisement or representation: "I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in this state. I am not licensed to draft legal records, give advice on legal matters, including immigration, or charge a fee for those activities."
  6. Clarifies that if the form of advertisement or representation requiring the prescribed statement above is not broadcast media, print media, or the Internet and does not permit inclusion of the statement required by this subsection because of size, it must be displayed prominently or provided at the place of performance of the notarial act before the notarial act is performed.
  7. Prohibits a Notary from withholding access to or possession of an original record provided by a person that seeks performance of a notarial act by the Notary except as otherwise allowed by law.

Validity of Notarial Acts

  1. Clarifies that Chapter 30.1 of Title 42 does not affect the validity or effect of a notarial act performed before January 1, 2019.
  2. Clarifies that except as otherwise provided in § 42-30.1-3(b) (sic), the failure of a notarial officer to perform a duty or meet a requirement specified in this chapter does not invalidate a notarial act performed by the notarial officer.
  3. Clarifies that the validity of a notarial act under Chapter 30.1 of Title 42 does not prevent an aggrieved person from seeking to invalidate the record or transaction that is the subject of the notarial act or from seeking other remedies based on the law of this state other than this chapter or law of the United States.
  4. Clarifies that Section 42-30.1-19 does not validate a purported notarial act performed by an individual who does not have the authority to perform notarial acts.

Miscellaneous

  1. Requires the commissioning agency to maintain an electronic database of Notaries through which a person may verify the authority of a Notary to perform notarial acts; and which indicates whether a Notary has notified the commissioning agency that the Notary will be performing notarial acts on electronic records.
  2. Provides that a Notary, who in the exercise of the powers, or in the performance of the duties of office, practices any fraud or deceit, the punishment for which is not otherwise provided for by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor and to be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
  3. Clarifies that a commission as a Notary in effect on January 1, 2019, continues until its date of expiration.
  4. Clarifies that a Notary who applies to renew a commission as a Notary on or after January 1, 2019, is subject to and must comply with Chapter 30.1 of Title 42.
  5. Requires a Notary, in performing notarial acts after January 1, 2019, to comply with Chapter 30.1 of Title 42.
  6. Requires a fee $5.00 to be charged and collected by Secretary of State for the authentication or certification of the signature of a Notary.
  7. Provides that in any event where the Secretary of State authenticates or certifies the signatures of a Notary upon multiple relevant documents presented simultaneously, and all of which documents pertain to the same matter or transaction and are to be filed at one time, the aggregate fee charged for the authentications or certifications shall be the lesser of $5.00 per each authentication or certification, or one hundred fifty dollars ($150).
  8. Amends Sections 42-30-3, 42-30-4, 42-30-5, 42-30-7, 42-30-10 and 42-30-11 to apply only to justices of the peace and not Notaries.
  9. Repeals Sections 42-30-8, 42-30-9, 42-30-12, 42-30-13, 42-30-14, 42-30-15 and 4230-16.
Analysis:

Rhode Island enacts a modified version of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts. It contains the definitions, identification provisions, prohibited acts, provision for a person unable to sign, grounds for action against a commission of a Notary, and provisions for notarization of electronic records, among other sections. However, it does not include the sections on notarial certificates or rulemaking by the commissioning official, and it modifies the commissioning and certain other sections. All of the affected sections no doubt were the product of compromise which led to the enactment of HB 7502/SB 2560 in its final form.

Read the text of HB 7502.

Read the text of SB 2560.

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