In 1999, a California notary public was fined $750 and had to perform 200 hours of community service after being caught and pleading guilty to forging a notary stamp and using it in a public office within the state of California (and then lying about). SOURCE: http://www.lastwordedits.com/unlawfulnotary.pdf
Since then, the instances of notaries public in California have gone way, way down. So down, in fact, that a Lexis Nexis search turned up only two cases in which a California notary had suits brought against him. In one of those cases, the judge found that the California notary public had done nothing wrong. In the other, the judge ruled that the statute of limitations (six years at that point) on filing a complaint had expired.
Because the laws and penalties for breaking them are so strict that there is no way any notary public in California is going to break them.
For example, a notary in California has to keep her seal under very strict and exclusive control. If she fails to do so, while it has to be proven that she “willfully” disregarded this rule, she is guilty of committing a misdemeanor crime. The Secretary of State (who is the boss of every notary public in California) can also suspend her commission.
It gets worse if she lets people use her seal to perform notary duties under their own name and even worse if they perform them under her name. In addition to having her commission revoked, she can be fined up to $1500 — for every instance (and every individual notarization that someone else performed).
It is also a misdemeanor for a notary public in California to fail to properly maintain his journal. There are very strict rules about which details a California notary must include in his journal. Every single one of those details must be recorded for every notarization performed.
If the California notary public misses even one of those details one time, he has committed a crime. There is a statute of limitations on this rule. After four years, a mistake in the journal can’t be prosecuted. Still, do you want to be prosecuted three years and 364 days later for misspelling a person’s name or leaving out a date on something?
These are just two (of many) instances in which a notary in California can quickly build up a criminal record. It’s important that, should you want to go after your California notary commission, you’re prepared to follow every rule down to the tiniest detail.
Remember, on the surface, being a notary public in California looks more like fun than something responsible, but it is a duty that is incredibly important. When you become a California notary public, you are becoming an officer of the court — and that comes with incredibly high standards to meet.
Erin Steiner is a writer who writes about business, legal, pop culture, and general topics (like waterhog mats) She served as a notary public of>