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Can you notarize a mugshot?

a mugshot of a woman wearing an orange jumpsuit

Updated 12-15-23. Copy certification requests should be approached with caution. Some states permit it for certain documents, others don't. One of the most unusual questions the NNA Hotline Team has received is: can a Notary certify a copy of a customer's mugshot? 

The answer is a bit complicated because it depends on the situation. Being asked to certify a copy of a photo or image is a fairly common request. However, a mugshot isn't a typical photograph, so you must first check your state's laws regarding copy certification.

Certifying documents

For starters, a typical copy certification, which is allowed by law in about half of all U.S. states, assumes you are certifying a copy of a document. For example, a diploma, a contract, medical records, and bills of sale are generally considered documents.

Some states have other restrictions. California only permits Notaries to certify copies of powers of attorney, or their own Notary journal entries if ordered by the Secretary of State or a court. Florida prohibits certifying copies of public records and vital records. Texas prohibits copy certification of any document that may be recorded with a government agency. In Ohio, online Notaries may certify copies made from their online Notary electronic journal.

The Notary laws in many states say that only documents can be copy-certified. So, if you live in one of these states, you would not be allowed to perform a copy certification on a mugshot.

Certifying other objects

Of the states that allow Notaries to perform copy certifications, a number have enacted the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (ULONA) or Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), which permit Notaries to copy certify “objects” other than just documents.

Notary laws in New Hampshire, for example, state that Notaries are permitted to certify a copy of a “document or other item,” as long as the copy is a “full, true and accurate” reproduction, but vital records, for one, are prohibited from being copy certified.

According to RULONA, “when certifying or attesting a copy of a record or item, a notarial officer certifies that: (1) the officer has compared the copy with the original record or item, and (2) has determined that the copy is a full, true and accurate transcription of the original record or item.” The ULONA provision tracks closely to the RULONA.

The open-ended use of the word “item” can be interpreted to include a photo. Thus, the case could be made that a state that has adopted ULONA or RULONA would, in fact, allow a Notary to notarize a photo — including a mugshot.

One notable exception is New Mexico. While it has enacted the ULONA provision allowing Notaries to copy certify “a document or other item” (NMSA 14-14A-4.D), it also has another provision that prohibits Notaries from certifying or authenticating a photograph (NMSA 14-14A-24.F[2]). Vital records, too, such as a birth certificate, may not be copy certified by a Notary.

Montana officials have informed the NNA that Montana's Notary law, 1-5-603(11)(c), MCA allows a Notary to certify a photograph if the Notary can verify, "from personal knowledge or satisfacyory evidence that the photograph is an accurate representation of the individual or item represented."

To notarize or not

To decide if you can certify a copy of the mugshot — or any photo — follow these simple steps:

  1. Check your state Notary guidelines. If they permit you to certify copies of photos or “items,” then proceed.
  2. Ask yourself if you can determine that the copy of the mugshot is a “full, true and accurate reproduction” of the original item.
  3. Follow your state’s procedures for certifying copies. 

If you have questions, our expertly trained NNA Hotline consultants can help. Call 1-888-876-0827, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. PST; Saturday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

Related Articles:

Handling certified copies of vital records and other unusual requests

What Notaries need to know about copy certification

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Mister J

11 Sep 2015

How about asking them to come back and bring you some kind of "document" that has the photo incorporated as an exhibit or illustration (without giving any advice as to the nature or contents of said document)? Problem solved!

Celenda Vargas

14 Sep 2015

Just curious, but in this case, wouldn't another solution be to instead notarize an acknowledgment or jurat for the pictured person with them attesting that the photo is authentic? That way you are not notarizing the photo, but simply notarizing that they have acknowledged in your presence that the photo is authentic, have produced the appropriate identification of themselves, and, if you use a jurat, that they swear to the same. That way, you aren't having to make a call as to whether or not the photo is of that person, but rather that they have attested to you that it is. It won't always satisfy the client, but at that point, you can refuse the notarization.

14 Sep 2015

That makes sense! I would rather do that anyway. I hired a guy for my tax season who looked nothing like his ID picture. Upon questioning, I found that he had recently lost 65lbs. I think notarizing a mugshot is risky and I'd hesitate to do it regardless of the situation.

Laura Sanchez

14 Sep 2015

Can a copy of a DD214 be notarized?

National Notary Association

14 Sep 2015

Hello. We would need more information to answer this question, including what state you are commissioned in and what type of notarization is being requested.

Dawn Beigel

14 Sep 2015

I agree with Calenda and Erica.

Shelley Swezey

14 Sep 2015

I am simply curious why a person would need a mug shot notarized, and who we be requiring a person to provide a notarized copy of such a "thing"? I have a very "dull" notary life (thankfully)! I agree with Calenda's comment, too, regarding this.


15 Sep 2015

If you are notarizina a mugshot as a copy, how would you know - would the person have the original to compare it to? Aren't there numbers on most mug shots? Without the original where do you go from here?


16 Sep 2015

Can Florida notaries notarize pictures or mugshots? Does Florida law allow for this?

National Notary Association

16 Sep 2015

Hello. Florida prohibits copy certification of public records and documents filed in a court proceeding. (FS 117.05[12][a]). Also, Florida does not permit Notaries to certify the identity of a person in a photograph.

Diana McCormick

16 Sep 2015

I would like to know the answer to the question, Can a copy of a DD214 be Notarized ? A DD214 are Marine Corp. discharge papers that has their record of service.

National Notary Association

16 Sep 2015

Hello. We're sorry, but as mentioned in the previous comment above, we cannot answer this question without more information as to what state you are in and what type of notarial act is being requested. However, if you can contact our Hotline team at or 1-88-876-0827 and let them know what state you are commissioned in, they can help you further with this matter.


28 Oct 2015

I agree with Celenda but I would not risk signing a portrait. Sorry, I'll decline.

Tom Franklin

28 Oct 2015

I am a notary in Ohio where the notarization of pictures is not permitted. I believe that Celenda's comment would work for me. Am I correct in that assumption? Thank you.

National Notary Association

29 Oct 2015

Hello. If the signer brings a statement that he or she has signed saying that the photograph is authentic and asks the Notary to notarize the signature, the Notary could do that. However, the NNA has taken the view that a Notary may mention, but not suggest or recommend this. The Notary may say to a customer who asks the Notary to perform a Notary-certified copy: “State law does not authorize me to certify a copy of your document. However, in this circumstance I may be able to notarize your signature on a written statement in which you certify the copy.” We’ve carefully chosen words here. A Notary may mention that he or she may be able to perform the procedure, but should not tell the signer "You should do this," or "You need to do this." We’ve also described the procedure in general terms, avoiding particulars that relate to the customer’s specific situation.A Notary should avoid recommending the procedure for two reasons. First, the Notary does not know whether or not the issuing or receiving agency will accept a copy certification by document custodian as an alternative to a Notary-certified copy. Second and most important, a Notary is a ministerial official and may not provide legal advice. In mentioning a copy certification by document custodian, a Notary should also tell the customer that he or she should be advised by the person or agency requesting the copy certification whether or not a copy certification by document custodian procedure will be acceptable.

Vallerie Walthour

28 Oct 2015

The person commenting on the DD214 it's not just Marine Corps discharge papers, it's all military branch discharge documents. Just to set the records straight. I'm, not an expert on if they can be notarized but do know that information.


11 Mar 2016

In the state of Michigan, notary certified copies are not permitted, so would it be recommended to acknowledge the signature of an individual who certifies the true copy? And would a notary be allowed to do this for a copy of anything? For example, I've come across a person who requested a copy of a utility bill to be notarized. I've also had people request copies of passports and other forms of identification to be notarized.

National Notary Association

14 Mar 2016

Hello. Since Michigan Notaries are not authorized to certify copies of documents, a person in need of a certified copy should contact the person or agency that issued the document in order to request a certified copy.


08 May 2017

First - are the 2015 dates right ? But to Erica, if a person has lost 65 pounds he or she should get a new ID. California requires new drivers license/state ID if there is a 10-pound weight change - except for pregnancy.


08 Oct 2019

Isn’t a mug shot a public record? So then in Florida, Notaries would be prohibited from certifying this, correct?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2019

Please see the section on Florida in the article.


09 Oct 2019

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Handbook for Notaries Public First Edition 2019 says: "A copy certification is performed to confirm that a reproduction of an original document is true, exact and complete. Such originals might include college degrees, passports and other important one-and-only personal papers which cannot be copy certified by a public record office such as a bureau of vital statistics and which the holder must submit for some purpose but does not want to part with for fear of loss. This type of notarization is not an authorized notarial act in every state, and in the jurisdictions where it is authorized, may be executed only with certain kinds of original document." If I read this right, there is no mention of "items" or "photo's" so I can only presume I cannot notarize a photo. But I "may" be able to perform a "copy certification by document custodian" if "the person or agency requesting the copy certification" is good with that but it would be up to the document custodian to discuss that with them to determine if that's acceptable. Correct?

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Hello. We spoke with our Hotline Team and they said you are correct. It would be possible for you to notarize a document custodian's signature on a statement from the custodian attesting to the accuracy of the copy. However, the Notary should not suggest this option to the signer, as doing so may be considered unauthorized practice of law. You should only notarize such a statement if requested by the signer and the notarization meets all requirements of your state's law. Also remember that vital records such as birth, death and marriage certificates may only be copy certified by the recording agency that holds the original document.

Lori Hamm

11 Oct 2019

Montana's new notary law, 1-5-603(11)(c), MCA allows a notary to certify a photograph if the notarycan verify, "from personal knowledge or satisfacotry evidence that the photograph is an accurate representation of the individual or item represented."

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Thank you for letting us know, Lori. We've added that information to the article.


28 Dec 2020

You forgot to add, that in california the only alternative is for the signer to self-certify a document: i.e. This is a picture of me, (me)signature notary cert.

Daniel Downing

12 Jan 2021

CA: Self-Certification by the document owner is always an option, i.e.: I swear this is a copy of my likeness signed john doe followed by a jurat. We can only certify two types of documents as being a copy: POA and copies of our journal.


05 Jan 2024

In Virginia we can do copy certification, but I don't recall seeing anything regarding photos. So should I assume that we cannot do this?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2024

Hello. That is correct, Virginia Notaries are not authorized to certify copies of photographs.

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