VIOLATIONS AND PENALTIES
Violation of Notary laws can result in serious consequences which can include:
Administrative actions levied by the Secretary of State Civil penalties levied by local and state prosecutors Criminal prosecution
The Secretary of State may levy penalties of up to $1,500 for notarial misconduct. These penalties may be in addition to suspension or revocation of the notary commission (Government Code § 8214.15(a)). The penalties of up to $1,500 may apply in the following circumstances:
a. The willful failure to discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties required of a notary public (Government Code § 8214.1(d));
The use of false or misleading advertising wherein the notary public has represented that he or she has duties, rights, or privileges that he or she does not possess (Government Code § 8214.1(f));
Commission of any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit the notary public or another, or substantially injure another (Government Code § 8214.1(i));
Execution of any certificate as a notary public containing a statement known to the notary public to be false (Government Code § 8214.1(l));
Violating the prohibition against a notary public who holds himself or herself out as an immigration specialist or consultant advertising that he or she is a notary or violating the restrictions on charging to assist in the completion of immigration forms (Government Code § 8214.1(m));
Violating the restrictions on advertising notarial services in a foreign language or literally translating the phrase “notary public” into Spanish (Government Code § 8214.1(p)).
The Secretary of State may levy penalties of up to $750 for notarial misconduct. These penalties may be in addition to suspension or revocation of the notary commission (Government Code § 8214.15(b)). The penalties of up to $750 may apply in the following circumstances:
- The negligent failure to discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties required of a notary public (Government Code § 8214.1(d));
- Charging more than the fees prescribed by law (Government Code § 8214.1(h));
- Failure to complete the acknowledgment at the time the notary’s signature and seal are affixed to the document (Government Code § 8214.1(j));
- Failure to administer the oath or affirmation as required by law (Government Code § 8214.1(k)).
Note: For the purposes of remembering the penalties for the exam, please note that there are 4 violations listed which carry a penalty of up to $750 whereas the rest carry a penalty of up to $1,500.
A separate provision of the law permits local and state prosecutors to recover up to $1,500 in a civil action from:
- Violators of the provisions relating to the unauthorized manufacture, duplication, sale and related offenses concerning the notary seal,
- Including a failure to notify the Secretary of State that a notary seal is lost, stolen, etc. (Government Code §§ 8207.4, 8207.1, 8207.2, and 8207.3).
Aside from civil penalties and administrative actions by the Secretary of State, notary misconduct can result in criminal prosecution.
Felonies – Some notary misconduct is serious enough to qualify for prosecution as a felony. Other than committing perjury, which is a felony for everyone, not just notaries, felonies are limited to dishonest or fraudulent actions with respect to encumbering someone into property.
- Any notary act performed with the intent to defraud in relation to a Deed of Trust.
- Any person acting as a notary without being duly commissioned and their action places an encumbrance on a party affecting title to real property (such as with a Deed of Trust).
- Anyone who knowingly makes a false sworn statement to a notary for a document which affects transfer of property title or places an encumbrance on a party is guilty of a felony. Any person filing with the county recorder false or forged documents of this nature is guilty of a felony and the fine on this action can be up to $75,000.
- Any notary who commits perjury (punishable by state imprisonment of 2, 3 or 4 years.)
Misdemeanors- Some notarial violations are classified as misdemeanors; however, even these violations can carry a possible fine as well as possible incarceration in a city or county jail.
- It is misdemeanor for a notary to notarize any document, other than documents relating to a Deed of Trust (see felonies) that contains information known by the notary to be false.
- Any person acting as a notary without being duly commissioned
- Destruction, concealment or defacing notary records.
- Soliciting or coercing a notary to perform an illegal or an improper act.
- Making false statements to a notary.
- Failing to submit notarial journals to the County Clerk within 30 days after a notary commission is no longer valid and the notary does not obtain reappointment.
Additional misconduct resulting in possible commission suspension or revocation
- Failure to secure or misuse of the notary stamp (seal)
- Failure to secure the notary journal
- Failure to remit court ordered judgments
- Failure to submit a payment demanded by the Secretary of State
- Dishonored checks: The notary’s commission may be cancelled for failing to satisfactorily pay for the examination or associated fees.
The person affected will have a right to a hearing prior to a revocation or suspension or after a denial of a commission, or prior to the imposition of a civil penalty.
The person will not have a right to a hearing after a denial of an application for a notary public commission in either of the following cases:
a. The Secretary of State has, within one year previous to the application denied or revoked the applicant's application or commission.
b. The Secretary of State finds that the applicant has committed or omitted acts constituting grounds for suspension or revocation of a notary public's commission.
Resignation or expiration of commission will not stop investigation or disciplinary proceedings.