A Notary from 123notary was doing a highly sensitive Notarization regarding a mafia deal for gun sales. Unfortunately, the signer didn’t have identification. And if he did, it would probably be a fake ID from China. So, the Notary required them to use credible witnesses. The problem was that nobody would agree to be a credible witness unless they were offered a credible witness protection plan with a safe house.
So, the witness identified the signer, swore under Oath to the signer’s identity, signed the journal and then was rushed to the safe house in Chula Vista, CA. Meanwhile in Chula Vista, there was another Notary signing going on and the witness being protected was asked to be a credible witness again. It was kind of a “while you are here” type of a thing. So, the credible identifying witness happened to know the signer in Chula Vista and identified him. Next thing you know, the signer was also a criminal from a rival mafia and once again the credible witness needed a protection plan.
So, the local police got him a nice room with a comfy bed in the back of the police station. It was kind of a make-shift type of arrangement. Twenty years later the witness is still there and has to be escorted to work. So, if you ever ask anyone to be a credible witness for future signings — just know what might be involved in the worst case scenario!
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See our string of credible witness posts
The mafia guy who could make witnesses disappear
What is the process for using credible witnesses? First of all, not all states allow the use of credible witnesses.
Which states allow credible witnesses?
One Witness or Two?
Some states will allow the use of one credible witness that knows the Notary and also knows the signer. Other states require the use of two credible witnesses. You need to know your state law to know what your state allows.
Knowing the Signer
The next question is, how well does a credible witness need to know a signer in order to swear under Oath that they know that person as a particular name? Most credible witnesses know the person as Joe, and have no clue what the last name is. They are swearing under Oath to something they were verbally told at the time of the notarization and they don’t really know Joe that well. In my opinion, credible witnesses should not be legal unless there is more scrutinizing to see how well they know the signer and how they learned the signer’s name before they were told at the signing what the Notary wants the signer’s name to be. Perhaps the Notary should ask the witness what the signer’s name is rather than telling them.
Credible witnesses must SIGN the notary journal, but NOT in the signature section. They must sign in the notes section. The Signer signs the journal in the signature section — get that straight! The Notary should write down the name, address, and driver license number of the credible witness as well.
Finally, the Notary must administer an Oath to the credible witness(es) asking them to swear that the name of the signer is John Q Doe, etc.
The idea of having credible witnesses is the best thing that ever happened to the Notary profession. Using credible witnesses you can legally notarize a signer as Mickey Mouse or Ronald Reagan — and all without any form of identification. We recommend you take journal thumbprints of the signer for proof that the signer really is who they say they are just in case fraud is suspected. Most states do not require journal thumbprints, but take them anyway because you will get investigated one day — and perhaps by an investigator named Mickey Mouse.
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Where do credible witnesses sign the notary journal book?
Credible Witnesses from A to Z
Where do credible witnesses sign the notary journal (register)(book)?
Some states require notaries to carry an official journal of notarial acts while others recommend it, but don’t require it. Some states call the journal of notarial acts a journal, while others call it a registry or a book. The main thing to remember, is that a good notary journal must be bound and sequential. Each entry must be in chronological order. Different journal manufacturers make journals differently. I recommend getting one with a thumbprint section and space to write notes. Most states don’t require notaries to take thumbprints, but for your security as a notary, you need thumbprints to keep you out of court if anyone questions whether the signer was a fraud or imposter. Thumbprints are a better proof of identity than any other means.
The credible witness signs the notary journal in the additional notes section!
They do NOT sign in the signature area!!! Signature areas are for the document signer, and only one document signer can sign in a particular journal entry’s signature area. If there are two signers, then make two journal entries! The credible witness must sign in the notes section because there is blank space there. You should document the credible witness’s identification, phone, and address to be thorough.
The notary needs to administer an Oath to the credible witness where the credible witness must swear to the identity of the signer. Make sure the credible witness really knows the signer well, otherwise they are not really qualified to identify someone that they know only as “Ralph”, and don’t even know his middle or last name!
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Everything you need to know about notary journals
California credible witness requirements
If you are a California notary public, and you are at a signing where the signer doesn’t have a current government issued photo identification document, (or EXPIRED is okay if issued within the last five years) you will not be authorized to notarize the signature of that signer without the use of credible witness(es).
When can a California notary use credible witnesses?
If the signer has no identification, or if it is going to be very difficult to obtain (perhaps it got misplaced and is very far away), then you can use one or two credible witnesses depending on whether or not you know the witnesses.
When can I use only 1 Credible Witness?
If the Notary in California knows the credible witness relatively well, and the credible witness knows the signer’s full name (without you having to tell them the complete name), then you can use just 1 Credible Witness
When can I use 2 Credible Witnesses?
If the California Notary Public doesn’t know the Credible Witness, then you need to depend on the Oath of 2 Credible Witnesses who know the signer’s full name.
Identifying the Credible Witness
You need to check the identification cards or documents of the Credible Witnesses. If they don’t have any, then you can not use them. They need to have current, (or EXPIRED if issued within the last five years) government issued photo identification with a physical description, signature, serial number, and expiration date.
Oath of Credible Witnesses in California
The California notary needs to have the Credible Witnesses (one by one) swear under oath that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then, ask them what the name of the signer is who you are pointing to. If the answer is, “Joe”, then make sure to ask if “Joe” has a middle or last name that they are aware of. If they can’t answer this question, then perhaps they are not the ideal witness for you!
Documenting the Signature of the Credible Witness in your journal.
It is required by law to document the signature of the Credible Witness or Witnesses in your journal. Have them sign in the notes section, NOT the signature section. Have the document signer sign in the signature section. It is optional but recommended that you also document the printed name, address, phone number, and identification information about the Credible Witnesses in your journal.
If the idenfication is expired – what is the issue date?
On California drivers licenses, there is an issue date documented at the BOTTOM of the card. This date is not labeled as an issue date, but it is clearly several years before the expiration date, and you can logically deduce that that was the issue date.
Get a thumbprint? It is a stronger proof of identity than anything else!
If you are identifying a signer in California based on the oaths of credible witnesses, I would strongly recommend getting a thumbprint of the signer in your journal. Although only required by law for Deeds and Powers of Attorney notarizations, the thumbprint is a much stronger proof of the identity of the signer than the Oaths of a few people who hardly know the signer. Please keep in mind that in rural Tennessee, you probably know your neighbors well, and your family’s have probably known each other since not far after the Mayflower landed. But, in urban or suburban-sprawl California, you probably don’t know anyone well because people tend to not know each other in California. Credible Witness rules were created a long time ago when people used to know each other a lot better.
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California notary issues
A new California notary law
California e-notary rules
Oath of two credible witnesses
We wrote another quick blog entry regarding WHEN you can use the oaths of two credible witnesses to identify a signer. We also specified WHICH STATES you are allowed to use the oaths of two credible witnesses in. Please refer to:
Credible witnesses from A to Z
to learn which states allow the use of oaths from two credible witnesses to identify a signer. If a notary public uses two credible witnesses, then the notary doesn’t need to know those credible witnesses, however, the credible witnesses should be able to tell the notary public the complete name of the signer(s). Please keep in mind that you should not use credible witnesses unless the signer either has no identification, or unless it is too difficult to obtain that identification (generally because it at a different place far away).
Please keep in mind that the notary public must administer an oath to the credible witnesses asking them to swear under oath as to the identity of the signer, and that the credible witnesses should sign the notary journal in the notes section as well. The notary must also identify the credible witnesses by means of identification documents such as a drivers license, passport, etc.
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Can a notary charge for a credible witness?
Sample Affidavits & Sample Oaths
What is a signature by X — What is a Signature by mark?
Please check your state notary rules to see what is allowed in your state. Many states allow for people to sign by x, or sign by mark. This procedure is generally only for very frail and elderly people who are bedridden. We have a number of posts about this topic, and we invite you to view these posts to learn about the details regarding how to get a notary for a bedridden signer, and what the procedure is.
Please see these posts for details:
Signature by X from A to Z – http://blog.123notary.com/?p=203
Dragging the person’s arm – http://blog.123notary.com/?p=610
A tale of four notaries in hospitals – http://blog.123notary.com/?p=463
Hospital notary jobs from A to Z – http://blog.123notary.com/?p=76
Please note that you need 2 subscribing witnesses for a signature by mark. Also, the signer of the X needs to be able to sign the X without someone moving their arm for them which is sometimes a challenge. This type of signing normally happens in a hospital room or nursing home where the signer is bedridden.