Verifying identity of a signer using satisfactory evidence; Paper identification
One of the most important duties of a notary is to properly identify the
document signer. Prior to 2008, the notary public was allowed to use personal
knowledge as acceptable identification, but beginning in 2008, the law was
modified, and it no longer allows personal knowledge between the notary and the
document signer as a sufficient means for identification. We're going to talk about a couple of
methods to identify a document signer.
The primary method for identifying a document signer is to use an
identification document that's acceptable under California law. I should mention that we're assuming
that the notary doesn't have any evidence, circumstance, or information which
would reasonably lead that notary to believe that the individual is not the
individual he or she claims to be.
For example, suppose you're being asked to notarize a signature on a
document for a person who you know is not the person he or she is claiming to be
within the document. Even if that
person is able to present identification verification document, since you
already know that the signer is not the person represented in the document, you
may not complete that notary act.
The first method of identification we're going to discuss is the
acceptance of identification documents. Not
all identity documents are acceptable under California law. For example the Matrícula Consular
cards are not valid identification for the purposes of a notary public, and may
not be accepted. While some older
valid military ID cards are acceptable, the new military ID cards are not
acceptable because they're not signed, and they have no physical description. The new military ID cards have a
great deal of information but it's on a chip that the notary of course can't
read. Even if the signer is in
active military duty, for the purposes of
acceptable identification documents, the person must use another form of ID.
Birth certificates may not be used, marriage
licenses may not be used, neither may baptism records, social security cards,
private employer identification cards, international driver's licenses,
passports from non-existent countries and MasterCards and Visa cards, credit
cards in general, or department store identification cards. These are all examples of
unacceptable identification documents.
Be especially wary of a passport from a non-existing country. There are tourist passports out there
from countries that don't exist, and some people will take advantage that the
notary may not know enough geography to realize that the country does not exist,
and will use that as a false form of identification. If you're unsure, especially about a
passport that might be from a country you've never heard of, take a few minutes
and so some research to eliminate those doubts that you might have.
Wow, with so many unacceptable identification
documents, what's left?
The truth is that there are only a handful of acceptable identification
documents that you may use to verify identity, but even if one of the following
identification documents is used, the notary must ensure that the identification
document presented is either current, or has been issued within the past five
years, has a photograph of the person, and has been signed by the person*. It must have a physical description
of the person*, and must have a serial
number listed from the entity issuing the identification document, or some other
I just said that you are allowed to use an expired identification
document but if it is expired, it must have been issued within the previous five
years. There's usually a date of
issuance on the document. If it's a
driver's license for example, and perhaps the person received a driver's license
when they turned 18, and now it's expired because it was good until 21 as some
states do that. If that person
hasn't yet received their new driver's license, and that driver's license
expired when they turned 21, you're allowed to still use it, because it's been
issued within the previous five years.
However, US passports for example are valid ten years, so typically if a
US passport is expired, you won't be able to use it because it was issued more
than five years ago.
These are the types of identification documents that may be accepted.
A California Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license or identification card,
• An identification card issued by any other state (this does not include an identification card issued by a Canadian
or Mexican public agency);
• A driver’s license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue drivers’ licenses;
• An identification card issued by any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States (military identification cards must still contain all of the information required by California Civil Code section 1185(b)(4) or they cannot be used as identification);
• An employee identification card issued by an agency or office of a California city, a California county, a California city and county, or the State of California;
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; or
• An identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government.
The following identification documents are also acceptable but are exceptions as they will not have all of the required elements such as a physical description or in some cases, a signature.
• We can use a United States Passport;
• An inmate identification card issued by the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the
inmate is in custody in prison; or
• Any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department, if the inmate is in custody in a local