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What To Do If Your Journal Is Requested As Evidence

Law enforcement investigators are increasingly turning to Notary journal records for evidence in fraud cases, and at times they request to seize an entire record book for use in their case. In these situations, there are key steps a Notary can take to comply both with the investigative request and state laws regarding the preservation of journal records.

“Increasingly, more Notaries are having their entire journals requested as evidence by law enforcement officials during investigations, especially in cases that involve attempts to forge or copy a seal without the Notary’s knowledge,” said Richard Busch, a California attorney who represents Notaries on behalf of Merchants Bonding Company, a leading Errors & Omissions insurance policy provider.

If an investigator asks to seize your journal, Busch said that Notaries should follow all state-mandated procedures — which vary from state to state —and make sure to get a receipt and ask the official for a business card with name and contact information. This ensures the Notary can follow up with the investigator to ensure their journal is returned.

California law requires Notaries whose journals are requisitioned by law enforcement to notify the Secretary of State’s office within 10 days by certified mail that the journal has been requested as evidence in an investigation. Busch suggested Notaries in other states inform their regulating agency if a journal is seized by law enforcement, even if not required by law. “Not all states spell out the requirements for surrendering a journal as thoroughly as California, but it’s always better to put in extra effort to protect your interest than doing less,” he said.

Should the Notary need to perform notarizations while the journal is being held by law enforcement, the Notary will have to purchase and use a new journal. If the Notary starts a new journal, Busch said no new entries should be entered into the previous journal after it is returned by authorities.

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