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Can You Notarize A Mugshot?

Notarizing a mugshot

Updated 10-22-18. One of the most unusual questions the NNA Hotline Team has been asked is if a Notary can 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 prohbits copy certification of any document that may be recorded with a government agency.  

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.

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 14-4-2[D]), it also has another provision which prohibits Notaries from certifying or authenticating a photograph (NMSA 14-12A-12[B]).

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 counselors can help. Call 1-888-876-0827, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST; Saturday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

 

19 Comments

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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.

erica@strategicbusinesslife.com

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.

Sandy

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?

LINDA GEORGE

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 hotline@nationalnotary.org or 1-88-876-0827 and let them know what state you are commissioned in, they can help you further with this matter.

Ada

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.

Fran

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.

busywoman

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.

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