Pre-Seminar

Notary Law Foundations

Notary Law Foundation

Our pre-seminar lays the groundwork for understanding notary law violations, fines, penalties and offenses. The multiple-choice official notary exam now has 45 questions. It has become more difficult to pass than in previous years and extra study time is needed.

This pre-seminar starts by giving you brief explanations of laws that are relative to notary violations. The last two sections specifically outline the fines, penalties and offenses specified in Notary law. Each section offers several practice exam questions to test your knowledge.

Good luck and we’ll see you in class!
NPS Staff

Section One - Notary Basics

In this section we will cover Notary Basics like the topics listed below. This will give you a general idea of some key concepts of what a commission is, what a notarization is and the certificates that notaries fill out to complete notarizations.

  1. Secretary of State
  2. Notarizations
  3. Example of a Notarized Document
  4. Acknowledgement
  5. Jurat
  6. The Notary Journal and Seal
  7. Special Notary Appointments and Provisions
  8. Section One Exam

Section One - Notary Basics - Secretary of State

The Secretary of State (SOS) is responsible for overseeing a notary’s commission (license) within the State. The Secretary of State grants four-year notary public commissions to qualified persons, approves notary public education courses, authorizes notary seal manufacturers, investigates violations of notary public law and takes disciplinary action, and issues apostilles.

Section One - Notary Basics - Notarizations

Notarizations verify identity and/or compel truthfulness in a document signer. The notary is only responsible for the truthfulness of the statements in the notarial wording, not the validity of the document.

The term Notarial Certificate is also used synonymously with notary wording. Notarial wording either directly follows the signer’s signature on the document or a notary uses a separate piece of paper with the notarial wording on it. The separate certificate is then stapled to the signed document.

There are four different notarial certificates utilized by California notaries. We will briefly cover the first two in this section.

Example of a Notarized Document

Section One - Notary Basics - Acknowledgement

The Acknowledgment is the most common form of notarization. The primary intention of the Acknowledgment is to positively identify the signer and authenticate their signature.

The Acknowledgment contains a penalty of perjury clause stating,
"I certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing paragraph is true and correct. WITNESS my hand and official.”

This is important because when a notary signs the Acknowledgment Certificate, they can be held liable for perjury if they provide misinformation such as backdating their certificate. 

Section One - Notary Basics - Jurat

The purpose of the jurat notarization is to compel truthfulness in a signer. The notary certifies that they witnessed the signer/affiant, swear or affirm to the truthfulness of the statements in the document.

Jurats are utilized on Affidavits which means “sworn statement.” That is why the signer is called an affiant when they sign a document notarized with a Jurat.

Section One - Notary Basics - The Notary Journal and Seal

There are many notary seal and journal laws that will be discussed in class. But, here are some important ones to remember.

Both the journal and seal must be kept in a locked and secured place that only the notary has access to. The notary journal must be kept in chronological order and properly maintained. A journal entry must be made for every signature notarized. A thumbprint is required in the journal if a notary notarizes a document involving real property or a Power of Attorney.

Notaries must purchase their official notary seal from an authorized vendor approved by the Secretary of State. Obtaining a seal improperly could cause a notary to lose their commission.

Section One - Notary Basics - Special Notary Appointments and Provisions

The SOS appoints Military and Federal employees as well as Public and Private employees. The provisions vary for each.

Military/Federal Civil Service Employees Requirements

A notary commissioned for a military base or naval reserve:

  1. Is a federal civil service employee.
  2. Must be a US citizen.
  3. Notarizes on base or Naval Reservation only.
  4. Cannot charge a fee.
  5. Commission ends when employment ends.

Public-Employee Requirements

A notary of a public agency:

  1. Must be an employee of the state, county, city, public school.
  2. Notarizes for the public agency only.
  3. Must charge for all notarial services.
  4. Remits fees charged back to the agency.
  5. Commission ends when employment ends.

Private Employee Requirements

A notary Public who has agreed to special provisions with his or her employer to limit services to the employer’s business during business hours.

  1. Bond and supplies paid for by the employer.
  2. Limited Service Agreement.
  3. An agreement may contain a fee remission agreement during business hours (not required but permitted).
  4. End of employment does not end commission.

Section One - Notary Basics - Exam

Which governmental agency is in charge of enforcing notary public law?

Dan Withers works as a dispatcher at a police station. His employer asks him to become a notary and pays for his supplies and exam. Dan may:

 If a private notary agrees to limit their notarial services to where they are employed, the transaction is called:

A federal or public employee may:

The main purpose of an Acknowledgment is to:

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses

Satisfactory Evidence

Notaries must use satisfactory evidence to identify their document signers and witnesses. A notary may use one of ten ID cards approved by the SOS or a credible witness or two credible witnesses.

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses

TEN SOS Approved ID Cards

The ten ID cards must be current or issued within the past five years.

A ten-year US passport is acceptable until it expires because it would be current.
A four year driver’s license is acceptable after it expires for up to a year because it was issued in the last five years.

A notary may not use a driver’s license or ID card extension issued from the DMV.

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - TEN SOS Approved ID Cards - 1-4

1. An ID card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles
(Note - As of 2019, California driver’s licenses and identification cards have a third gender classification option besides male and female, it is “X” which means nonbinary.)

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - TEN SOS Approved ID Cards - 1-4

2. A United States passport
(a U.S. passport is not required to include a physical description.)

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - TEN SOS Approved ID Cards - 1-4

3. An inmate ID card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody in a California state prison.

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - TEN SOS Approved ID Cards - 1-4

4. Any form of Inmate ID issued by a sheriff’s department, if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - PIPS

The remaining ID cards must also be current or issued within the last 5 years, but they must also contain PIPS:

Photograph

Identifying number

Physical description of the person

Signature of the person

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - Foreign Passport

5. A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship, or a valid passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship;

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - Canadian or Mexican DL

6. A driver’s license issued by a Canadian or Mexican public agency

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - Out of State ID

7. An ID card issued by another US state

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - Military ID

8. US Military ID card  (May not have all of the required elements.)

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - CA Government Employee ID

9. An employee ID card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or by an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California; (note: this example does not include all the elements of P.I.P.S. and would not be an acceptable ID.)

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - 5-10 - Tribal Government ID

10. An ID card issued by a federally recognized tribal government.

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Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - Credible Witness and Witnesses 

Under Satisfactory Evidence, a notary may also use a credible witness or two credible witnesses as identification of a document signer. They can only be used if the signer does not possess an approved ID card. The mechanics of using a credible witness(es) will be explained in class. Credible Witness(es) must be identified with one of the ten acceptable IDs above.

Section Two - Identifying Signers and Witnesses - Exam

Pick the four elements that must be present in ID cards 5 - 10

Pick the 3 SOS  approved ID cards

When Identifying a document signer, a notary must use:

Satisfactory Evidence includes which of the following:

 

A credible Witness(es) may be properly identified by which of the following:

Section Three - Penalties and Offenses

Section Three - Penalties and Offenses - Notary Law Summary

There are laws that pertain to notaries and those that imposter notaries. There are also laws to protect notaries from others. A violation of any law by a notary may cause a Notary’s commission to be denied, suspended or revoked by the SOS.

It is important to understand notary violations for the exam including the penalty and offense associated with each. For example, the failure to properly maintain a notary journal is a misdemeanor with a $750. penalty. However, there may not be a penalty and offense assigned for each violation. 

Section Three - Penalties and Offenses - Offenses

Felony - Crime
If convicted of a felony, a notary could serve time in state prison or jail for 2-4 years.

Misdemeanor - Crime
If convicted of a misdemeanor, a notary could serve a jail term of not more than one year and/or probation and/or a fine. Possibly all three.

Infraction - Violation
If convicted of an infraction, the notary is typically fined.

Section Three - Penalties and Offenses - Negligent or Willful 

Notaries must discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties or responsibilities of a notary public. Failure to do so is a violation that could be deemed negligent or willful. The SOS will decide if the actions are negligent or willful. 

Separate fines could be added in some cases. For example, if a notary fails to obtain a thumbprint when notarizing a document containing real property of a Power of Attorney, they may be fined $750 for failure to faithfully discharge their duties. They may also be subject to a fine of $2500 for the specific violation of failure to obtain a thumbprint when required by law. (See Section Four - Fines)  

👉   $750.  Negligent failure to discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties or responsibilities required of a notary public

👉  $1500.  Willful failure to discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties or responsibilities required of a notary public

Section Three - Penalties and Offenses - Exam

A civil penalty involves:

An administrative penalty could mean:

If a notary is found guilty of a felony, how much time could they serve?

Section Four - Fines

Section Four - Fines - Loss of Commission

If a commissioned notary public commits a misdemeanor or felony during their term of office, their commission would be revoked. If said notary reapplied to become a notary, their application would be denied.

Section Four - Study Fines

Please study the fines assigned to each violation. You will be tested in the official exam on fine amounts. We’ll review offenses for violations in the next section.

Section Four - Fines - $500

  1. Willful failure to inform the SOS of an Address change - Infraction
  2. Willful failure to inform the SOS of a Name Change - Infraction

Section Four - Fines - $750

A notary would be guilty of failing to discharge their duties or responsibilities if they committed one of the following acts. Remember, a notary could be subject to a separate penalty for some offences.

  1. Failure to Discharge the Duties or Responsibilities of a Notary Public
  2. Failure to verify identification.
    • A notary public who fails to obtain satisfactory evidence from a signer or credible witness when notarizing an Acknowledgement is subject to a separate civil penalty of $10,000. (Civil Code section 1185.) Reminder: Acknowledgment wording contains a penalty of perjury clause.
  3. Failure to require personal appearance.
  4. Unauthorized use of seal.
  5. Failure to maintain the notary journal with complete records of official acts.
  6. Failure to complete journal line items at the time of the notarial act.
  7. Failure to obtain a thumbprint in the notary journal.
  8. Notarization of incomplete documents.
  9. Failure to notify the Secretary of State of any address changes. (A separate $500 penalty may also be imposed.)
  10. Failure to respond to a written request from the Secretary of State Loss of the right to authorize confidential marriages.
  11. Charging more than the Prescribed Fees.
  12. Failure to obtain a thumbprint.
    • A separate penalty of $2500. may also be imposed. (Government Code section 8206, Government Code section 8214.23.)
  13. Failure to Administer the Oath or Affirmation.

Section Four - Fines - $1500

  1. Use of False or Misleading AdvertisingExample 1: Notary public whose commission has been suspended, advertises notary public services while on suspension.
    Example 2: Notary public advertises services as a real estate agent when not licensed as a real estate agent.
  2. Act Involving Dishonesty, Fraud, or Deceit with the Intent to Substantially Benefit the Notary Public or Another, or Substantially Injure Another.Example 1: Embezzlement with the intent to benefit the applicant and/or notary public and defraud the employer, thereby committing a willful act involving dishonesty and deceit.
    Example 2: Compromising the notary public examination by taking any exam material by any method from the exam site or cheating during the notary public exam.
    Example 3: An individual embezzled funds from his employer. The employer did not want to file charges against the employee. An agreement is drawn up between the employer and the employee to pay back the funds and is signed by both parties
  3. Execution of any Certificate as a Notary Public Containing a Statement Known to the Notary Public to be FalseExample 1: The notary public backdates an Acknowledgment .
    Example 2: The notary public executes an Acknowledgment for a person who did not appear in person before the notary public.
    Example 3: The notary public accepts a Social Security card or matricula consular card as identification for an Acknowledgment.

    • In addition to the civil penalties described above, a notary public who willfully states as true any material fact that he or she knows to be false is subject to a separate civil penalty of $10,000. (Civil Code section 1189)
  4. Immigration Violations. This law provides that a notary public with expertise in immigration matters or who provides immigration services cannot advertise in any manner that he or she is a notary public. (Government Code section 8223.)Example: A notary public advertises both immigration and notary public services, not necessarily in the same advertisement.
  5. Violation of Government Code Section 8219.5: Advertising in Language Other than EnglishExample 1: Advertising as a notary public in a language other than English without providing the requisite notice in English and in the other language that the notary public is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice about immigration and any other legal matters and also without setting forth the statutory fees that can be charged by the notary public for notarial services.
    Example 2: Using the words “notario publico” in any writing.

Section Four - Fines -$2500

  1. Willful Failure to Provide Access to the Notary Public Journal Upon Request by a Peace Officer.
  2. Negligent failure to obtain thumbprint in journal for documents involving real property and a Power of Attorney. Remember, this could also include a $750 fine for failure to discharge the duties or responsibilities of a notary public.

Section Four - Fines - $10,000

  1. The completion of a certificate of Acknowledgment that contains statements that the notary public knows to be false.
  2. Failing to obtain satisfactory evidence when performing Acknowledgements. (Failure to faithfully discharge duties may also apply, $750, $1500.)
  3. Failing to properly identify a credible witness. (Failure to faithfully discharge duties may also apply, $750., $1500.)

Section Four - Fines - $75,000 

Every person who files any false or forged document or instrument with the county recorder which affects title to, places an encumbrance on, or places an interest secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on, real property consisting of a single-family residence containing not more than four dwelling units, with knowledge that the document is false or forged, is punishable, in addition to any other punishment, by a fine.

Section Four - Fines - Exam

If a notary willfully fails to notify the SOS about a name change or an address change they could be assessed  a $500 fine, what other fine could they be subjected to?

If a notary willfully fails to notify the SOS about a name change or an address change, what is the offense?

What is the civil penalty when a notary fails to verify identification of a signer on a Jurat?

A notary public who fails to obtain satisfactory evidence from a signer or credible witness when notarizing an Acknowledgement may be subject to a separate civil penalty of:

What is the fine and separate penalty a notary is subject to when they fail to obtain a thumbprint on a Power of Attorney document?

Jorge charges $20 per signature notarized. How much can he be fined?

Sam, a notary, notarizes for his friend Brian and his wife Debby on a Deed of Trust. Debby does not personally appear before Sam for the notarization but Brian has a copy of her ID and assures Sam that Debby will be in later to sign his notary journal so Sam notarizes the document. The Deed of Trust is now in Brian’s name, he sells his house and runs off to Puerto Rico without Debby. What fine is Sam subject to?

Rhonda executes a loan signing for a client and decides to obtain a credit card using her document signer’s personal information contained in the loan docs. What financial penalty could she be subject to?

 In Rhonda’s case, it is a public prosecutor’s right to:

Esther advertised that she is a notary in French but failed to post her prices along with her ad. How much can she be fined?

Failure to notify the Secretary of State of any address changes could subject a notary to how many fines?

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Loss of Commission Due to Violations of the Law

It’s worth repeating that if a commissioned notary public commits a misdemeanor or felony during their term of office, their commission would be revoked. If said notary reapplied to become a notary, their application would be denied.

Helpful hint: There are two infractions listed and four felonies. Everything in between is a misdemeanor.

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Offences

Offences are categorized as infractions, misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors and felonies are also categorized as crimes.

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Infractions

  1. Willful failure to inform the SOS of an Address change.
  2. Willful failure to inform the SOS of a Name Change.

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are sentences of 1 year or less in jail or prison.

  1. False Statements by a Notary
    Every officer authorized by law to make or give any certificate is guilty of a misdemeanor if they knowingly make and deliver any certificate or writing containing false statements. (Notice this law does not contain “Acknowledgement.”)
  2. Failure to Turn the Journal into the County Clerk’s Office
    A notary has thirty (30) calendar days from the date their commission expires to deliver all notary public records and papers, including the notary public journal, to the clerk of the county in which the current oath of office as a notary public is on file.
    Failure to do so is a misdemeanor violation and the notary can be liable for damages to any person injured by the action or inaction.
    Unlawfully Obtaining Personal Information Misdemeanor or Felony
  3. Every person who willfully obtains the personal identifying information of another person, including the name, address, checking account information, tax identification number, driver's license information, or other personal identifying information, and who uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including intending to obtain, or attempting to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person, is guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the court.
  4. Failure to Secure the Notary Seal
    A notary public is guilty of a misdemeanor if the notary public willfully fails to keep his or her notary public seal under the notary public’s direct and exclusive control or if the notary public willfully surrenders the notary public’s seal to any person not authorized to possess it.
  5. Failure to Properly Maintain the Notary Journal
    A notary public is guilty of a misdemeanor if the notary public willfully fails to properly maintain the notary public’s journal.
  6. Any notary public who willfully fails to perform any duty required of a notary public under Section 8206 (see all laws under 8206., or who willfully fails to keep the seal of the notary public under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public, or who surrenders the seal of the notary public to any person not otherwise authorized by law to possess the seal of the notary, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
  7. Influencing a Notary
    Any person who solicits, coerces, or in any manner influences a notary public to perform an improper notarial act knowing the act is improper, including any act required of a notary public in connection with the notary journal, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
  8. Destroying or Concealing a Notary’s Records
    If any person shall knowingly destroy, deface, or conceal any records or papers belonging to the office of a notary public, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and be liable in a civil action for damages to any person injured as a result of such destruction, defacing, or concealment.
  9. Posing as a Notary
    It shall be a misdemeanor for any person who is not a duly commissioned, qualified, and acting notary public for the State of California to do any of the following:

    1. Represent or hold himself or herself out to the public or to any person as being entitled to act as a notary public.
    2. Assume, use or advertise the title of notary public in such a manner as to convey the impression that the person is a notary public.

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Felony

A Felony is a sentence of one year or more in jail or prison

  1. Fraud on a Deed of Trust by a Notary
    A notary public who knowingly and willfully with intent to defraud performs any notarial act in relation to a deed of trust on real property consisting of a single-family residence containing not more than four dwelling units, with knowledge that the deed of trust contains any false statements or is forged, in whole or in part, is guilty of a felony. Government Code section 8214.2(a)
  2. Fraud on a Deed of Trust by Someone posing as a Notary who is not a commissioned Notary
    Any person who is not a duly commissioned, qualified, and acting notary public who does any of the acts prohibited by Section 8227.1 in relation to any document or instrument affecting title to, placing an encumbrance on, or placing an interest secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on, real property consisting of a single-family residence containing not more than four dwelling units, is guilty of a felony. Section 8227.1 makes it a misdemeanor to act as a notary public when you are not a Notary. If you commit any of these misdemeanor offenses and it has to do with real estate the misdemeanor will change to a felony.
  3. Failing False or forged documents relating to a Single Family Residence
    Every person who files any false or forged document or instrument with the county recorder which affects title to, places an encumbrance on, or places an interest secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on, real property consisting of a single-family residence containing not more than four dwelling units, with knowledge that the document is false or forged, is punishable, in addition to any other punishment, by a fine not exceeding seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000).
  4. Every person who makes a false sworn statement to a notary public, with knowledge that the statement is false, to induce the notary public to perform an improper notarial act on an instrument or document affecting title to, or placing an encumbrance on, real property consisting of a single-family residence containing not more than four dwelling units is guilty of a felony.

Section Five - Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies - Exam

Rhonda executes a loan signing for a client and decides to obtain a credit card using her document signer’s personal information contained in the loan docs. What offense has Rhonda committed?

 If a notary perpetuates a fraud when notarizing an acknowledgement on a deed of trust, what offence have they committed? 

If a notary fails to notify the SOS about a name change or an address change, what offense have they committed?

Don tries to bully a notary into executing an improper notarization. What offense is Don guilty of?

 

What offense has a notary committed if they willfully fail to turn their journals into the county clerk’s office within thirty days of their commission expirations date?

Miguel is not a notary but notarized a document involving real property with a fake seal. What two offenses has Miguel committed?

Sam, a notary, notarizes for his friend Brian and his wife Debby on a Deed of Trust. Debby does not personally appear before Sam for the notarization but Brian has a copy of her ID. Sam and Brian are in cahoots so Sam notarizes the Trust Deed without requiring the personal appearance of Debby. Sam then files the document at the county recorder’s office. Brian sells his home and splits the profit with Sam and they both skip town. Of what offence is Sam guilty?

Complete!

Congratulations on completing your Pre-seminar studying! This is a great step in preparing for the official state exam. We can't wait to see you in class, but if you need to ask a question before class you can always contact us at info@npsnotary.com

 

Thanks,

NPS Staff