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Notary Bulletin

FAQ: Moral Turpitude Crimes That Disqualify Notaries

family-court-resized.jpgIn some states, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude will prevent a person from getting a Notary commission or result in an existing Notary losing their commission — but it isn’t exactly clear what moral turpitude means. Here are answers to questions Notaries have asked about moral turpitude and offenses that can disqualify a Notary from holding a commission.

What Is ‘Moral Turpitude’?

According to Merriam-Webster, “moral turpitude” has two legal meanings:

1.  An act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.

2.  A quality of dishonesty or other immorality that is determined by a court to be present in the commission of a criminal offense.

What Do State Notary Laws Say About Moral Turpitude?

Notaries witness the execution of document signings. In general terms, a person cannot be trusted to perform Notary services impartially and honestly if they have been convicted of a crime that involves moral turpitude. In some states persons convicted of crimes of moral turpitude may be disqualified from applying for a Notary commission.

Moral turpitude as applied to Notary laws seldom has an exact definition. It is a concept that gives state commissioning authorities wide flexibility in deciding whether someone should receive or keep a Notary commission.

Not every state lists moral turpitude in its Notary laws as a disqualification for a Notary commission, but many do. North Carolina authorizes the Secretary of State to deny a Notary commission to an individual who has been convicted of any crime involving “dishonesty or moral turpitude” (GS 10B-5[d][2]). Arizona disqualifies any person convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude or of a nature that is incompatible with the duties of a notary public” (ARS 41-330.A.2).

California law states moral turpitude as grounds for the denial, suspension or revocation of a commission (Government Code 8214.1[b]). The California Secretary of State’s Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines lists examples of offenses of moral turpitude that can lead to revocation of a Notary’s commission or denial of a commission application. The examples include but are not limited to: assault, arson, auto theft, burglary, possession or sale of illegal drugs, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, failure to pay child support or failure to comply with a court order. The California Supreme Court has handled many cases in which crimes of moral turpitude were at issue. In one case, the Court said, “Although we have variously defined ‘moral turpitude’ in such broad terms as ‘baseness, vileness or depravity’…, we have also decided that the question of whether a conviction involves moral turpitude so as to warrant revocation or suspension of a license to practice a professional cannot be determined in the abstract but depends rather on whether the conviction demonstrates unfitness to practice that profession” (Cartwright v. Board of Chiropractic Examiners, 16 Cal. 3d 762, 548 P.2d 1134, 129 Cal. Rptr. 462, 1976 Cal. LEXIS 258).

Under Texas law, “a crime involving moral turpitude includes dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public …” (1 TAC 87.10 [c]). Crimes involving moral turpitude include felony or Class A or B type misdemeanor convictions.

In short, the legal definition of moral turpitude is fuzzy around the edges. It may be hard to define, but it comes into clearer focus when you consider individual offenses that demonstrate the unfitness of the individual to perform official duties, in this case being a Notary Public.

What About Notary Laws In Other States?

States that do not have moral turpitude provisions in their Notary laws may still disqualify persons convicted of certain crimes from serving as Notaries. For example, Florida disqualifies any Notary commission applicants who have been convicted of a felony unless the applicant has had his or her civil rights restored. Florida Notaries may also have their commissions suspended for fraud, unauthorized practice of law or other types of misconduct (FS 117.01).

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

View All: Laws & Regulations

47 Comments

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Dave Briggman

19 Aug 2019

You guys should be aware that in Virginia, felons who have had their rights restored can be commissioned as Notaries...in one company, I found four Notaries who were convicted felons, some of who had Notarized documents I found improperly. In response, I asked my State Senator to introduce legislation to bar all felons who have had their rights restored from becoming Notaries, which he carried. He then amended his bill to limit the ban to those felons having been convicted of crime of moral turpitude (lying, cheating, or stealing), which he did. The legislation passed unanimously out of the Senate and 87-12 out of the House, http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?191 sum SB1782 The Governor of Virginia then vetoed the bill, which even if passed, would have still allowed felons who have murdered, raped, and committed other major crimes from becoming Notaries in Virginia. https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2019/march/headline-839694-en.html

Michael Harris

19 Aug 2019

In today's climate of sexual sin, many crimes of moral turpitude are no longer crimes (now the norm).

Mr. J

12 Sep 2019

Actually Michael Harris, with much greater social awareness of sexual improprieties, including the #metoo movement, people DON'T get away with sexual assault and harassment the way that they used to. Look how things have turned out for certain big-name celebrities over the last couple of years when their immoral behavior has finally come to light after many years.

Sheila

06 Aug 2020

I was wondering about the state of Mississippi and their interpretation of the law. Can a person with a felony for possession with intent be disqualified?

National Notary Association

07 Aug 2020

Hello. You can find a list of disqualifying felonies in Mississippi under Rule 1.8 in this document: https://www.sos.ms.gov/content/documents/Business/Notary%20rules%20and%20regs.pdf

Jim

08 Aug 2020

I got convicted of a felony DWI in 2010 in the state of Texas. I paid my debt to society and have been a productive and law-abiding citizen since then. I am starting an income tax preparation business and would like to know if I would be able to acquire a Notary commission. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless.

National Notary Association

12 Aug 2020

Hello. To qualify for a Texas Notary commission, an applicant must not have been convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude (GC 406.004[a]).

Holly Doering

22 Aug 2020

How far back do background checks go? If someone has had a felony or misdemeanor that falls in the description of "moral turpitude", but it was over 30 years ago, will it still disqualify? For California

National Notary Association

24 Aug 2020

Hello. A California Notary applicant is required on the application form under penalty of perjury to list all convictions by any court of a misdemeanor, or a felony, and provide all details for any arrest or citation for an offense for which a trial is pending.

Sarah Jarboe

06 Oct 2020

Hi there! If you had a simple drug possession charge over 5 years ago and thats the only thing have ever been in trouble for, will that count against you? Thanks!

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2020

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you wish to apply for a Notary commission in?

chevy@sandiferlawoffice.com

12 Oct 2020

With the State of Texas current law, any felony conviction period or a moral turpitude crime disqualifies you from being a notary. Could you tell me the states that have any clause to this such as time period or rights restored.

National Notary Association

19 Oct 2020

Hello. We contacted a law professor who is an expert on Notary law with your question. He is not aware of any state Notary statutes that provide the type of clause you describe, but recommends contacting a specific state for additional information if you have questions about this matter.

Sage sage

12 Oct 2020

Texas I was convicted of a felony that’s was dropped down to a class A misdemeanor in 2013 . i completed 2 years Of Deferred adjudication and it was dropped . Can i be approved

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2020

“A crime involving moral turpitude includes the commission of a crime involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public, which may include, but not be limited to: (1) Class A and B type misdemeanors which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted; and (2) felony convictions which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[c]). “Class C type misdemeanor convictions shall not be considered in determining eligibility” (1 TAC 87.10[d]). If you need additional information about your individual situation, we recommend contacting the TX Secretary of State's office at 1-512-463-5705.

Tammy Lee

13 Oct 2020

I had a marijuana possession charge in Texas 6 or 7 years ago that was dismissed after probation in Texas. Can I become a Texas notary?

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2020

Hello. “A person is not eligible to be a notary public if the person was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or a felony and the conviction has become final, has not been set aside, and no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights has been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[b]). “A crime involving moral turpitude includes the commission of a crime involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public, which may include, but not be limited to: (1) Class A and B type misdemeanors which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted; and (2) felony convictions which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[c]). “Class C type misdemeanor convictions shall not be considered in determining eligibility” (1 TAC 87.10[d]). If you are not sure about your qualification status, you may wish to contact the TX Secretary of State's office directly to speak with someone directly about your status. Their phone number is 1-512-463-5705

Francisco

17 Oct 2020

If I had a dui in Pennsylvania. Could I still become a notary? What information should I put on the app?

National Notary Association

19 Oct 2020

Hello. You can find a list of disqualifying acts at the PA Department of State's website here: https://www.dos.pa.gov/OtherServices/Notaries/NotaryServices/Pages/Character-Criminal-Convictions-and-Sanctions-RULONA.aspx. If you are not sure if you fall under one of these categories or need additional instructions for completing the Notary application, please contact the Department of State by phone at 1-717-787-5280 or by email at ST-NOTARIES@pa.gov to request assistance.

Dora

22 Oct 2020

I was convicted over 30yrs ago for shoplifting and aggravated assault but given a expungement. Would that disqualify me from a Notary public position in TN?

National Notary Association

22 Oct 2020

Hello. No one may serve as a Tennessee Notary who: (a) has been convicted of bribery, larceny or certain other offenses unless restored to citizenship (TCA 8-18-101). We would suggest contacting the Tennessee Department of State's Notary Section directly to confirm whether or not you are eligible to apply. Their number is 1-615-741-2650 and email is TNSOS.MVTL@tn.gov.

lisa

29 Oct 2020

If I had a Class B misdemeanor (bad check) charge, completed my probation would this disqualify me? Texas

National Notary Association

29 Oct 2020

“A crime involving moral turpitude includes the commission of a crime involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public, which may include, but not be limited to: (1) Class A and B type misdemeanors which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted; and (2) felony convictions which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[c]).

Joe

30 Oct 2020

Will a class A misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child disqualify me from becoming a notary in NY?

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2020

Hello. NY Notary applicants must not have been convicted of a crime, unless the Secretary of State makes a finding in conformance with all applicable statutory requirements, including those contained in Correction Law Article 23-A, that such convictions do not constitute a bar to appointment.

Lindsay

30 Oct 2020

I have a previous theft misdemeanor in ky but I want to be a notary in Ohio. Will the old charge in ky be held against me.

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2020

Hello. Ohio Notary applicants must submit a criminal records check report demonstrating that the applicant has not been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense, or any offense under an existing or former law of Ohio, any other state, or the United States that is substantially equivalent to such a disqualifying offense within 6 months prior to application (ORC 147.01[B]). A list of disqualifying offenses can be found here: https://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4776.10

Kevin Battles

02 Nov 2020

I had a misdemeanor family assault in 1996 and completed anger management, probation? And 84 hours community service. I applied for a notary license and I was denied. It’s been 24 yrs and I have not been in any trouble since then why am I help accountable for something that happen so long ago when I was young. I completed what the court required of me. I should have all rights restored we all make mistakes nobody is perfect and we’ll make mistakes some get caught up in mistakes and others don’t . What recourse do I have to fight and get my license

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2020

Hello. State Notary regulating agencies typically have the authority to approve or reject a Notary commission application based on the requirements in state Notary statute. Can you tell us what state you are applying for a commission in?

Kevin Battles

02 Nov 2020

Texas

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2020

Texas statute lists the following information on disqualifications for Notary commission applicants: “A person is not eligible to be a notary public if the person was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or a felony and the conviction has become final, has not been set aside, and no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights has been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[b]). “A crime involving moral turpitude includes the commission of a crime involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public, which may include, but not be limited to: (1) Class A and B type misdemeanors which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted; and (2) felony convictions which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[c]). “Class C type misdemeanor convictions shall not be considered in determining eligibility” (1 TAC 87.10[d]).

newbie

03 Nov 2020

Can a convicted felon of fraud & forgery in the state of GA have their rights restored and become a notary?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2020

A Georgia Notary commission may be denied by the clerk of the superior court due to: (a) the applicant’s criminal history; (b) revocation, suspension or restriction of any Notary commission or professional license in any state; (c) commission of any of the prohibited acts listed in OCGA 45-17-15(a); or (d) a finding by the Georgia Bar or any court that the applicant engaged in the unauthorized practice of law (GNH).

Rashaunda Kenney

04 Nov 2020

If your record has been sealed for class b misdemeanor shoplifting can you become a notary for Texas?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2020

“A person is not eligible to be a notary public if the person was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or a felony and the conviction has become final, has not been set aside, and no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights has been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[b]). “A crime involving moral turpitude includes the commission of a crime involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, deliberate violence, moral depravity, or that reflects adversely on the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a notary public, which may include, but not be limited to: (1) Class A and B type misdemeanors which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted; and (2) felony convictions which have not been set aside, or for which no pardon or certificate of restoration of citizenship rights have been granted” (1 TAC 87.10[c]). “Class C type misdemeanor convictions shall not be considered in determining eligibility” (1 TAC 87.10[d]).

Jordan

10 Nov 2020

I wish to apply to become a notary in Michigan. I have an OWI from 2014, and want to know if that will hold me back from being able to become a notary.

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2020

Hello. To qualify for a MI Notary commission, an applicant must be free of any felony convictions within the past 10 years, two or more "specified misdemeanors" within a 12-month period while commissioned as a Notary or three or more "specified misdemeanors" within a five-year-period. The term “specified misdemeanors” is to be determined by the Michigan Secretary of State and includes the following: a violation of the Michigan Notary Public Act; a violation of the public trust; an act of official misconduct, dishonesty, fraud or deceit; or an act substantially related to the duties or responsibilities of a notary public [MCL 55.301].

Becca Valenzuela

10 Nov 2020

Can being listed on a child abuse registry show on a background check or keep someone from becoming a notary for the state of TN? No convictions or charges at all.

National Notary Association

13 Nov 2020

Hello. No one may serve as a Tennessee Notary who has been convicted of bribery, larceny or certain other offenses unless restored to citizenship. You may wish to contact the Tennessee Department of State directly at 1-615-741-2650 to discuss your legal situation and determine if it would disqualify you from holding a commission.

frank d

15 Nov 2020

I had completed an ARD program in Pennsylvania for a DUI in 2001 , which is considered no conviction , I would like to become a NY state Notary would this cause any issues ?

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2020

Hello. An applicant for a commission as a New York Notary Public must: (a) be at least 18 years old, (b) be a person of good moral character, (c) be a resident of New York State or have an office or place of business in the state, (d) have the equivalent of a “common school education” and (e) not have been convicted of a crime, unless the Secretary of State makes a finding in conformance with all applicable statutory requirements, including those contained in Correction Law Article 23-A, that such convictions do not constitute a bar to appointment.

Ward Bell

18 Nov 2020

How can a felon in California become a notary?

National Notary Association

18 Nov 2020

Hello. According to the CA Secretary of State's website (https://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/qualifications), state law requires all applicants be fingerprinted as part of a background check prior to being granted an appointment as a notary public. All applicants are required to disclose on their application any arrests for which trial is pending and all convictions. The Secretary of State will recommend denial of an application for the following reasons: Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction; Conviction of a felony where not less than 10 years have passed since the completion of probation; Conviction of a disqualifying misdemeanor where not less than 5 years have passed since the completion of probation; or A determination that the facts of a particular case warrant denial, such as the nature and severity of the act or the presence of aggravating factors.

Emma W

19 Nov 2020

Wish to apply to become a notary in Oregon but want to know if a criminal mischief plus a dui charge will get me denied. I completed the diversion program and everything required by the courts.

National Notary Association

20 Nov 2020

Hello. To qualify for an Oregon Notary commission, an applicant must not have been convicted of a felony or any crime involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit during the 10-year period preceding the date of application.

chelsea@pcwelldrilling.com

19 Nov 2020

Can you become a CA Notary if you had a felony in 2010, probation completed in 2015 and expunged from your record in 2020?

National Notary Association

20 Nov 2020

Hello. California Notary commission applicants must pass a background check by both the FBI and the California Department of Justice, including submission of fingerprints (GC 8201.1[a] through [d]). A list of disqualifying convictions is available online at https://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/qualifications. If you are concerned your status might affect your ability to pass a background check, you should contact the CA SOS office by email here (https://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/contact/email-notary-public-and-apostille) to ask about your qualification concerns.

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