Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

Notary Bulletin

A Guide To Common Penalties For Notary Misconduct

family-court-resized.jpgUpdated 11-1-19. The biggest mistake a Notary can make is thinking, “Notarization isn’t a big deal.” Notarization is a big deal. It protects signers from document fraud and ensures the integrity of business and legal transactions. Willfully breaking the law — or even making an unintentional mistake — can lead to serious financial and legal penalties for you.

Here’s a look at some possible consequences of Notary misconduct in different states.

1. Notary Commission Suspended Or Revoked

A common punishment for Notary misconduct is taking away the Notary’s commission, either temporarily or permanently. In Texas, the Secretary of State may suspend or revoke a commission if a Notary fails to require a signer’s personal appearance at the time the notarization is performed or for 28 other violations that constitute “good cause” (GC 406.009[a] and [d][5]; 1 TAC 87.31). Arizona officials may take away a Notary’s commission for failing to administer an oath or affirmation during a jurat (ARS 41-330.A.9); notarizing a signature without certificate wording (ARS 41-330.A.12); overcharging fees (ARS 41-330.A.6); using false or misleading advertising (ARS 41-330.A.5) or for 8 other offenses. Nevada officials may revoke or suspend the commission of any Notary who is found to have willfully violated or neglected his or her duties (NRS 240.150.4).

States that have adopted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), such as Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington, can revoke or suspend a Notary’s commission on a variety of grounds, including the following:

  • The Notary fails to comply with the provisions of the law
  • The Notary makes a fraudulent statement or omission on their commission application
  • The Notary is convicted of a felony or a crime involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit
  • The Notary fails to discharge his or her duties
  • The Notary fails to maintain a mandatory surety bond (or “assurance”) if a surety bond is required by statute (in Colorado it is optional).

2. Criminal Penalties

Under some state laws, certain violations in performing a notarization can lead to a Notary being found guilty of a misdemeanor or even a felony in serious cases. Some states issue criminal penalties for specific acts. For example, in North Carolina Notaries are considered guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor if they take an acknowledgment or administer an oath or affirmation without personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the principal’s identity (GS 10B-60[c]). In Hawaii, knowingly notarizing a signature on a document and failing to properly identify a document signer through personal knowledge or satisfactory proof of identity, or knowingly failing to include required information on a certificate statement are misdemeanors (HRS 456-21). Conviction for these offenses also results in automatic revocation of the Notary’s commission (HRS 456-20[b] and [c]). In Georgia, a Notary who knowingly executes a notarial certificate containing a statement the Notary knows to be false — or who performs an act with the intent to deceive or defraud — is guilty of a misdemeanor (OCGA 45-17-8[d] and 45-17-20). 

3. Civil Penalties

Some types of misconduct may require the Notary to pay a fine or other civil penalty. For example, in Massachusetts, a person who acts as a Notary after their commission expires can be fined $100-$500 (GL 222 Sec. 9). In Virginia, a nonattorney Notary who assumes, uses or advertises the title “notario,” “notario publico” or “licenciado,” or any other term in a language other than English that indicates they are authorized to practice law is subject to a maximum civil penalty of $500 for the first offense and a maximum $1,000 for a second or subsequent violation (COV 47.1-15.1). 

4. Lawsuits And Financial Liability

Even if a state does not fine a Notary or levy other punishments for misconduct, a Notary can still be sued by a signer in civil court if the Notary’s actions were responsible for financial losses — whether the Notary made the mistake intentionally or not. In one case, a Notary was sued for $250,000 after it was discovered the signer was an impostor and the Notary failed to record the signer’s thumbprint in the Notary’s journal entry. In another case, a Notary was sued for failing to follow proper procedure when relying on a credible witness to identify a signer.

A Notary isn’t the only one who can be held liable for misconduct. Employers and bosses can be held liable as well if they ask Notaries who work for them to violate proper procedure. Under Florida law, a Notary’s employer can be held liable for damages proximately caused by an Notary employee’s misconduct if the notarization was performed as part of the employee’s job duties (FS 117.05[6]).  And even if a Notary is not found liable, paying for court costs and legal representation can be extremely costly. Illinois has a substantively similar provision (5 ICLS 312/7-102).

How To Avoid The Consequences Of Notary Misconduct

The best way to avoid penalties from Notary misconduct is to steer clear of any improper actions or ethically questionable behavior when notarizing. The following steps will help you avoid some of the most egregious examples of misconduct:

  • Know the law in your state and the violations that can be penalized. If you don’t know the law, learn it.
  • Always follow your state’s laws regarding signer personal appearance and identification.
  • Never falsify information in a notarial certificate and make sure all required information is included.
  • Never let anyone else have access to your Notary seal or journal, and keep your seal and journal in a locked, secure area under your control when not in use.
  • Make sure you use a Notary journal and record a complete entry for every notarization you perform.
  • Never give a signer improper legal advice about a document or choose the type of notarization for a signer.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

View All: Laws & Regulations

46 Comments

Add your comment

sirageldin a osman

12 Nov 2018

Nice

Kathy Frank

02 Oct 2019

I am a notary. I was informed of a UPS Store at 326 E. 65th Street, New York 10065 of unbelievable charges for documents. I have a photo of the charges that were posted. I phoned this store and was told that these were fair and lawful charges and did inform them that these were definitely not. These are so unfortunate that I felt that I had to report them. A friend took this picture. She then knew I was a notary and took these to me. My Notary Number is 31-o1-FR4844316 Commission Expires April 30, 2013. I don't have a copy I can attach of these charges. If you will tell me where to send the photo I will be happy to send it in. Example: UPS Staff Witness: $10.00 each witness. Deed: $30.00 along with other notarial fees, etc.

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2019

Hello. Please follow the instructions at this link to submit a complaint to the NY Division of Licensing Services: https://www.dos.ny.gov/licensing/complaint.html

lavenia higdon

26 Oct 2019

I have questions on a estate that I believe has been handled wrongly. I believe that forgery has occurred on my husband's inheritance. I want to obtain all documents signed and registered threw the county clerk's office. How can I get all documents to look over and be sure the estate has been fine correctly

National Notary Association

28 Oct 2019

Hello. You would need to contact the county clerk's office directly to ask how you can obtain the documents you wish to examine.

Jeremiah McDaniel

13 Dec 2019

I need to report a notary for falsifying documents . I’m thinking about seeing and want his Notary privileges taken away . Who do I speak to to report his crime .

National Notary Association

13 Dec 2019

To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are located in?

Audrey Sehlmeyer

03 Jan 2020

What is the validity of a document if it was notarized by a non-notary using the actual notarys stamp in their absence.

National Notary Association

07 Jan 2020

Hello. A Notary stamp cannot be used by anyone except the commissioned Notary.

Kristy broussard

12 Jan 2020

Okay is it illegal paperwork to be before a notary or it does it have to be signed in front of the notary for it to be legal .... Im asking bc i signed provisional custody by mandate form for medical purposes only for 6 months to my God mother but it wasn't in front of a notary ... And my God mother had two witnesses signed and said that she will get it notarized by a notary ... Now i know that in fact that im supposed to have a copy of the form as well as her and the notary .. my God mother refuses to give me a copy ... Im from lousiana ... And i need to know what can i do about it

National Notary Association

13 Jan 2020

Hello. We're sorry, but any questions about the legality of a medical custody document would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Sherry Sigmon

17 Jan 2020

What if a notary uses a different spelling of their name like Gale instead of Gail. I'm in NC.

National Notary Association

22 Jan 2020

Hello. A Notary should always sign and write their name exactly as it appears on their Notary commission.

Jane

18 Jan 2020

I recently had a Failure to Appear for a class a Misdemeanor for a traffic ticket in Whiteville, NC. Will this cause me to not be able to keep my Notary License?

National Notary Association

22 Jan 2020

Hello. North Carolina rules for disqualification are as follows: "The Secretary of State may deny an application for commission or recommission based on (t)he applicant’s conviction or plea of admission or nolo contendere to a felony or any crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude. In no case may a commission be issued to an applicant within 10 years after release from prison, probation, or parole, whichever is later” (GS 10B-5[d][2]). “A notary public may not hold public office if he or she: • Has been convicted of a felony under North Carolina or federal law. • Has been convicted of a felony in another state that is also considered a felony under North Carolina law. • Has been convicted of corruption or malpractice in any office. • Has been removed from any office by impeachment. “All of these constitutional disqualifications prevent anyone from holding the office of notary public if his or her citizenship rights have not been restored in the manner prescribed by law. However, individuals who have been incarcerated or placed on probation are able to submit an application for consideration provided that 10 years have passed since the applicant’s last day of prison, parole, or probation. G.S. 10B-5(d)(2)” (NC Notary Public Guide).

Joy

23 Jan 2020

A wrecker service notary notarized and forged my dads home deed and life insurance policy to her mother my dads sister without my dads being present and forged his signature to do it happened the day before he went into the hospital And my dads sisters daughter stole all his deeds and insurance policy and took my name off I’m his only daughter and no notary was present with him signing he informed me and he was on house bound and he wasn’t able to leave home , he didn’t sign nothing in front of his sisters notary they forged it while he was on hospice

Robert Beresford

02 Feb 2020

My question is regarding Florida Laws. I have three quit claim deeds that are forged. The Notary involved was asked about these documents and they stated they were fraud in May 2019. Their Commission expired in August 2019 and they stilk havent reported this theft to Tallahassee and a property hearing concerning one of the three document goes to court this week which is to quiet the title and both parties are the committing fraud as well as the Notary...How can this be dealt with because local law enforcement tells me the Notary is the 1st victim that has to report the misuse of her stamp but instead of notifying authorities the notary produce an affidavit stating one document was a fogery but ignoring the others that would also be discarded in my favor as only living relative. Instead two people are fighting over property they've stolen by fraud

National Notary Association

05 Feb 2020

Hello. We are sorry, but you will need to contact a qualified attorney for legal advice on how to proceed with any fraud issue in court.

Robert Gordon

04 Mar 2020

My wife and I Were selling a condo in June 2019 in MA. My wife works for a real Estate atty. She announced she wanted a divorce. She had my signature on the deed already for buyers bank. My wife who is a notary brought it to a friend notary and had the deed notarized and then my wife recorded the deed. Then held the proceeds check for months with her divorce Atty. I would not have sold the property had I known of the plan. Were they both wrong with there licences to be a notary.

National Notary Association

04 Mar 2020

Hello. If you believe that someone improperly notarized your signature without your knowledge or consent, you should contact local law enforcement or your state Notary-regulating agency to file a report and request assistance.

Mary Durkin

05 Mar 2020

Is a deed legal if the Notary's husband signed the deed as a witness and her signature was lacking?

National Notary Association

05 Mar 2020

Hello. Any questions about the legality of a document would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Tierra

10 Mar 2020

The quit deed to my trailer and the land was forged by a notary public in Alabama. Her boss told her to sign his wife's name. She willingly complied and forged the document with ne unaware and they took it to court(without me knowing) can I use the notary that forged signature and her boss? They also went before the court (I wasn't present) because I wasn't aware of it...anyway, they lied and told the courts that I was a week to week tenant. I have a copy of the original deed that she forged. Her boss addmitted to a sherriff on a,different incident that it was forged! What can I do. Can they held held responsible(the notary public and or her boss accountable?) Even if their stampnwasnt used?

National Notary Association

12 Mar 2020

Hello. We apologize, but the NNA cannot provide advice on legal matters or legal disputes. You would need to speak to a qualified attorney to answer any questions about possible legal options in your situation.

Jacqueline Baldwin

26 Apr 2020

A notary In florida presented me with a one page document, pointing to a line to sign. Turns out this was a warranty deed transferring my HOMES into another mans name, my neighbor who wanted to purchase them. I was told I was going to notary to do title search on home. Several issues with notary, 1) notary prepared warranty deed, unauthorized practice of law 2) notary backdated document a year and a day prior to signing 3) notary did not acknowledge, she couldnt have since I was not given all pages of document to acknowledge Will document be voidable or is it void?

National Notary Association

27 Apr 2020

Hello. Any legal questions about the validity of a document would need to be answered by an attorney. If you suspect you are a victim of Notary fraud, we strongly recommend you notify law enforcement and the state Notary-regulating office as soon as possible.

Marie G

28 Apr 2020

My employer has his sisters notary stamp and has his daughter sign the sisters name and notary stamp to pay applications. He tries to make me do it but I refuse, who do I need to contact to report him

National Notary Association

28 Apr 2020

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are located in?

Marie G

28 Apr 2020

My employer has his sisters notary stamp and has his daughter sign the sisters name and notary stamp to pay applications. He tries to make me do it but I refuse, who do I need to contact to report him

Marie G

28 Apr 2020

My apologies, Georgia

National Notary Association

28 Apr 2020

Hello. You can contact the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority (https://www.gsccca.org/notary-and-apostilles/notaries/georgia-notary-law) or you may wish to contact local law enforcement.

Marie G

28 Apr 2020

The sister also purchased a second stamp to use at her office. So she has 2

Imelda Prakelt

10 Jun 2020

My SO use the same bank. He was able to notarized the quit claim deed from the bank without my appearance & able submit the document to be recorded to maricopa county, AZ which transferred the title of my house. Would you say the notary failed to protect the signer by not requiring the appearance & proper ID & violated the acknowledgment.

National Notary Association

11 Jun 2020

Hello. Any questions about a legal dispute would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Leonard Wooten

15 Jun 2020

I was just curious. I am in the State of Michigan. How or what is required if you are Notarizing a document for non responsive person in the Hospital or in Hospice? Should you just deny the signing?

National Notary Association

15 Jun 2020

Hello. You should not perform a notarization if the signer is unresponsive or unable to communicate with you in any way.

Sarah

05 Jul 2020

Can a notary that is working for a law firm from home in Maryland use her acess to personal records and information for personal use?... For example they use their acess to look up people for their friend including sending pictures or PDF files through text and emails of personal informaion?

National Notary Association

06 Jul 2020

Hello. You would need to speak with someone at your law firm to answer any questions about privacy policies put in place by your employer. Please see The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility (https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/reference-library/notary-public-code-of-professional-responsibility) for general recommended ethical guidelines regarding Notaries and privacy. .

Margarita

16 Jul 2020

I’m in Texas and my boss paid for my notary since we have to use one a lot for our documents. I’ve only used it at work with him signing papers. I think he’s used my stamp and forged my name on some documents when I was absent and accidentally left my stamp at my desk. What do I need to do?

National Notary Association

17 Jul 2020

Hello. According to Attorney General Opinion GA-0723, the employer is not the owner of a Texas Notary's seal and journal even if the Notary tools were paid for by the employer, and the seal and journal should remain in the Notary's possession at all times. When not in use, your seal and journal should be stored in a secure, locked location to prevent anyone else from unauthorized access.

REBECCA WRIGHT

16 Aug 2020

What happens when a notary sign a document six days after the witnesses signed their signatures

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2020

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

Henry Raford

27 Sep 2020

Notary did some paper for me but there notary was exprie.

Rosalie Maskil

03 Oct 2020

I'm fighting over some property. The other person had someone or signed a dead persons name this person was deceased 4 months before the papers were signed and that shows up by the notary stamp to. Now how do I go about taken care of this.

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2020

Hello. We're sorry, but for any advice on how to conduct a legal action, you need to contact a qualified attorney.

Jacob Sumner

05 Oct 2020

We have a situation where in Oregon the Notary did not keep records and signed off on a senile persons request for change of will. No retraction of original will

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.