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What Would You Do Answers: The case of the teen with a child's ID photo

teen-ID-resized.jpgLast week, we shared a real-life scenario where a Notary was approached by a 16-year-old who wanted his signature notarized for a birth certificate correction form. The teenager presented a nondriver’s ID issued by his state’s motor vehicle department — but the photo on the ID was that of an 8-year-old child. The teenager claimed that the reason for the discrepancy was that he was issued the ID as a child and the card had been in his possession for a long time.

We asked our Notary community how they would handle this situation, and whether they found the ID and the teenager’s explanation satisfactory or not. Here are some of the responses from our readers.

What our Notaries said

Many of you balked at the idea of performing this notarization because of the discrepancy between the ID photo and the signer’s age.

“I would have to inform him to come back with a more recent form of ID,” Dawn Henderson said. “That I cannot accept because of the photo being so old.”

“The identification he presented does nothing to identify the person sitting in front of me, therefore I would not complete the notarization,” said Elanda Aaron Ross. “Additionally, if he received the ID card when he was 8 and he is 16, I would be suspicious as to why he has waited such a long time to renew this identification card.”

Other Notaries were concerned about the signer being a minor in addition to having an ID with a dubious photo.

“In my state, a document signed by a person who isn’t legally emancipated or at least 18 years old is not recognized as a legal document,” said Cindy Vargas. “If this person was legally allowed to sign the document, I would ask for an alternative form of state or federally issued ID.”

“I will want to understand why the signer is signing a document of this nature without the parent being present,” said Gerry, a Notary from Vermont. “If I come to suspect the teen is a runaway or being abused, I will be obliged to contact the police and the Vermont Department of Children and Families. 

Several of you suggested that the signer bring his parents or guardians with valid ID to serve as credible identifying witnesses as an alternative to accepting the ID with the child photo.

Notary Standards of Practice: ID issues

While the idea of a teenager having an ID card since the age of eight may seem strange to some readers, it’s not impossible. Nondriver’s ID cards can be issued to minors, and the length of time they  are valid can vary significantly. For example, Colorado’s current Real ID driver’s licenses are good for 5 years from the date of issuance, but in South Carolina, driver’s licenses and nondriver’s IDs are valid for 10 years.  In Florida they are good for 8 years and in Texas for up to 7 years.

However, what to do in this situation  is less clear-cut. The fact that the photo is of an eight-year-old child, while the bearer of the ID is a 16-year-old teenager immediately raises concerns that the ID may be counterfeit or tampered with in some way. 

If the signer doesn’t look like the ID photo, that doesn’t automatically mean that the ID is fraudulent. A person’s weight, hair and other features can differ due to age, health or appearance changes as time passes. However, if the signer’s appearance significantly differs from the ID photo, be sure to check other information on the ID such as date of birth or physical description to see if they match up or are inconsistent. This can help you decide if you feel confident accepting the ID as proof of the signer’s identity. A reliable guide to U.S. identification cards can provide you with information about an ID card’s format and the length of time it is valid.

If you still aren’t comfortable accepting the signer’s ID, you can ask if the signer can provide an alternate form of identification. In this situation, the Notary was from California and contacted the NNA Hotline because she was concerned about the discrepancy between the signer’s actual age and the age of the child in the ID photo. California nondriver’s IDs are valid for up to 8 years and available to minors. The statute allows a signer to present a California nondriver's ID that is current or issued in the past five years. Based on the plain reading of the statute, the California Notary could have accepted the ID provided it was still current at the time. [Note: As of January 22, 2018, California Law has changed. IDs issued to everyone but senior citizens are good for 6 years. But the teen’s ID was issued 8 years ago, predating the change in the law.]

State laws vary on this point. If you are commissioned in a state that has enacted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, the law allows Notaries to refuse to perform a notarial act provided the refusal doesn't violate any law. In this case, you'd have a clear basis to refuse to notarize if you weren't comfortable with proceeding.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Keesing Documentchecker Guide

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Julie Rice

17 Dec 2018

Just learned something new! Did not know that California law changed (Jan. 22, 2018) that IDs issued to everyone but seniors are good for 6 years. THIS is just more reason to be a member of NNA. Thank you NNA!!!

Connie Welles

17 Dec 2018

I am sorry, but I am "old fashion"-if somebody did that to me, I would tell him to get somebody 21 years old to verify OR get his parents to verify that with me.

Wendy Campbell

17 Dec 2018

To piggy-back onto Julie's comment above, ID's are now good for 6 years but Driver Licenses have not changed and still expire 5 years after issuance.

Loren Washington

18 Dec 2018

Very good information

Jane Jackson

20 Dec 2018

Driver Licenses have changed In Washington DC driver licenses are good for eight (8) years

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