GUIDING PRINCIPLES

*THE NOTARY PUBLIC CODE
OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY*



I
The Notary shall, as a government officer and public servant, serve
all of the public in an honest, fair and unbiased manner.

II
The Notary shall act as an impartial witness and not profit or gain
from any document or transaction requiring a notarial act, apart from
the fee allowed by statute.

III
The Notary shall require the presence of each signer and oath-taker in
order to carefully screen each for identity and willingness, and to
observe that each appears aware of the significance of the transaction
requiring a notarial act.

IV
The Notary shall not execute a false or incomplete certificate, nor be
involved with any document or transaction that is false, deceptive
or fraudulent.

V
The Notary shall give precedence to the rules of law over the dictates
or expectations of any person or entity.

VI
The Notary shall act as a ministerial officer and not provide
unauthorized advice or services.

VII
The Notary shall affix a seal on every notarized document and not
allow this universally recognized symbol of office to be used by
another or in an endorsement or promotion.

VIII
The Notary shall record every notarial act in a bound journal or other
secure recording device and safeguard it as an important public
record.

IX
The Notary shall respect the privacy of each signer and not divulge or
use personal or proprietary information disclosed during execution of
a notarial act for other than an official purpose.

X
The Notary shall seek instruction on notarization, and keep current on
the laws, practices and requirements of the notarial office.

What it Means to be a Public Official

Notaries are public officials appointed by the governments of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories to serve their citizens as trusted, impartial witnesses to document signings.

A Notary’s geographic authority to perform notarizations is strictly limited to the boundaries of the appointing state or jurisdiction and to the term of the commission, which may vary from 2 to 10 years. They must also uphold the law of the appointing state or jurisdiction. When performing official notarial acts, Notaries are serving the public service on behalf of their state. They cannot violate the law at anyone’s request — and that includes employers, clients, friends or family members.

Notaries must also be impartial, which means they must never refuse to serve, or to discriminate in their quality of service, based of an individual’s race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer. As representatives of the state, Notaries must perform their official duties with respect and seriousness for the public service role they play as a trusted, impartial witness.

The Different Notarial Acts

Acknowledgments

An acknowledgment is typically performed on documents controlling or conveying ownership of valuable assets. Such documents include real property deeds, powers of attorney and trusts. For an acknowledgment, the signer must appear in person at the time of notarization to be positively identified and to declare (“acknowledge”) that the signature on the document is his or her own, that it was willingly made and that the provisions in the document are intended to take effect exactly as written.

Jurats

A jurat is typically performed on evidentiary documents that are critical to the operation of our civil and criminal justice system. Such documents include affidavits, depositions and interrogatories. For a jurat, the signer must appear in person at the time of notarization to sign the document and to speak aloud an oath or affirmation promising that the statements in the document are true. (An oath is a solemn pledge to a Supreme Being; an affirmation is an equally solemn pledge on one’s personal honor.) A person who takes an oath or affirmation in connection with an official proceeding may be prosecuted for perjury should he or she fail to be truthful.

Certified Copies

A copy certification is performed to confirm that a reproduction of an original document is true, exact and complete. Such originals might include college degrees, passports and other important one-and-only personal papers which cannot be copy-certified by a public record office such as a bureau of vital statistics and which the holder must submit for some purpose but does not want to part with for fear of loss. This type of notarization is not an authorized notarial act in every state, and in the jurisdictions where it is authorized, may be executed only with certain kinds of original document.

Each state and U.S. territorial jurisdiction adopts its own laws governing the performance of notarial acts. While these different notarial laws are largely congruent when it comes to the most common notarizations, namely acknowledgments and jurats, there are unusual laws in a number of states. In the state of Washington, for example, certification of the occurrence of an act or event is an authorized notarization. And in Maine, Florida and South Carolina, performing a marriage rite is an allowed notarial act.

What Is Notarization?

Notarization is the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic, and can be trusted. It is a three-part process, performed by a Notary Public, that includes of vetting, certifying and record-keeping. Notarizations are sometimes referred to as “notarial acts.”

Above all, notarization is the assurance by a duly appointed and impartial Notary Public that a document is authentic, that its signature is genuine, and that its signer acted without duress or intimidation, and intended the terms of the document to be in full force and effect.

The central value of notarization lies in the Notary’s impartial screening of a signer for identity, willingness and awareness. This screening detects and deters document fraud, and helps protect the personal rights and property of private citizens from forgers, identity thieves and exploiters of the vulnerable. Every day the process of notarization prevents countless forged, coerced and incompetent signings that would otherwise overwhelm our court system and dissolve the network of trust allowing our civil society to function.

Notaries have been around since Ancient Rome.

The true ancestors of Notaries were born in the Roman Empire. Many regard history’s first Notary to be a Roman slave named Tiro, who developed a shorthand system which he called notae for taking down the speeches of the famed orator Cicero. Other witnessing stenographers came to be known as notarii and scribae.

A Notary Public is a person of proven character who acts as an impartial witness to a transaction, appointed by the state.

Notaries are the first line of defense against fraud.

In the United States, each state has different laws regarding the role of a notary and the qualifications to become a notary.