Becoming a notary in California means taking on an awesome responsibility. And, like most awesome responsibilities, this one comes with lots of very strict rules that must be followed exactly. No, really — exactly. There is no wiggle room when it comes to being a notary public in California.
You would think that, with all of that responsibility and all of those extremely strict rules, every California notary would be very closely supervised. Nope! In fact, it is largely the opposite.
As a California notary public, you work almost completely independently of any state-sanctioned watcher type person. It’s understandable, given all that freedom, how someone who is a notary in California might be tempted to let some of the rules slide. Without someone watching your every move, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll take care of that later,” or “Meh, good enough.”
Do not give in to this temptation! If you don’t see to every single detail and follow every letter of the law, you could wind up in huge and terrifying trouble.
If you fail to properly identify one of the signers of the contract you are notarizing, you could face a civil conviction and have to pay a fine of up to $10,000. That is not a cumulative $10,000 over the course of your California notary career. That’s up to $10,000 for every time in which you, acting as a notary public in California, fail to identify a signatory to the satisfaction of the rules set forth by the Secretary of State. Yikes!
Let’s say that someone comes in and says they are working on an Intelius removal and need you to notarize some papers verifying the request to have the information removed from the system. The person wants the notary stamp to prove the time and date on which that person submitted their completed forms.
Your California notary public stamp tells a court (should the matter go that far) that you are vouching for the person, that he or she has met every legal requirement he or she needed to meet, and that they performed the deeds they say they did.
Let’s say you had to notarize three signed forms. You charge the person $45 for the service.
It turns out that, as a notary in California, you’re only allowed to charge people up to $10 per signature. You have overcharged the person by $15. Fifteen dollars doesn’t seem like that big a deal, right? You can just refund the over-payment, right?
Maybe. But if the person complains or brings suit against you for overcharging them for the duties you performed as a notary public in California, you’re going to be in trouble. The Secretary of State can suspend your California notary public commission for as long as six months, and you can be fined up to $750 — for every instance in which you overcharged that person!
Becoming a California notary is a huge responsibility, and these fines are steep and really scary. This is why, as part of the process of becoming a notary in California, you have to pay for “insurance.” This usually means paying for a California Notary Public Surety Bond. You can buy these bonds in a variety of increments. It depends on how much coverage you need. If you are sure that you can abide by every detail and follow every law involved with having your own California notary commission, you can go with a smaller bond.
The fact is that being a notary public in California makes you a very important person, and that means you have to take your important responsibilities seriously. Besides, can you really afford to have a criminal record and fines totaling thousands of dollars because you overcharged someone by a few bucks? It’s better to follow all of those annoying rules, don’t you think?
Erin Steiner was an Oregon notary public for one term. She now writes about everything from small business to pop culture topics all over the web.