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January 16, 2018

Credible Witnesses, the ins and the outs.

Not all states allow credible witnesses, and some states like California have odd rules for credible witnesses. I also have opinions about credible witnesses as I used them frequently.

Some states that allow credible witnesses require only one witness. One that knows both the signer and the Notary.

Some states don’t allow credible witnesses at all

While other states allow the use of two credible witnesses who both know the signer but do not know the Notary. Or one credible witness who knows both.

The problem is how credible witnesses are used. Credible witnesses are normally used when the Notary gets to a Notary appointment and the signer has no ID. Or sometimes the ID has the wrong name. Hurry, get a credible witness or the notarization is over! So, you grab a neighbor, or coworker who swears they know you well.

The problem is that knowing you as a neighbor is very different than knowing you well enough to have your middle name(s) memorized.

You could test a credible witness out and ask, “What is this man’s middle name?” If they don’t know it, I would not think of them as a credible or reliable source of information. The law might allow you to use them but does it really make sense. They are just going along with whatever middle name the signer claims to be.

Or, you could use your judgement while picking credible witnesses. Personally, I feel that a family member or spouse is a quality choice for a credible witness as family members will know the other family members middle names. But, my friends who I’ve known for 30 years I do not know their middle names — sorry to say.

Additionally, in California, the credible witness has to swear that the signer cannot easily obtain an identification acceptable to the state of California such as a driver license, passport, etc. So, if the signer has an ID, but the names do not match, it would be bending the law to use a credible witness in that situation. If you don’t believe me, read page 12 of the 2017 California Notary Handbook.

All in all, I would say that using credible witnesses as a way to get out of a bind is something that should only be done if the credible witness really knows the person intimately and knows their middle names intimately off the top of their head. Otherwise you are just finding loopholes. And God forbid if you don’t take journal thumbprints you are asking for a court case and an FBI investigation! Be cautious as a Notary. It is easy to get in trouble and big trouble!


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December 28, 2016

Credible Witnesses

Credible Witness requirements vary from state to state. However, a vast majority of states allow the use of credible witnesses to identify a signer when the signer has no ID. Some states allow the use of one credible witness if the witness knows both the signer and the Notary. Other states allow the use of two credible witnesses if the credible identifying witnesses know the signer (but, not the Notary.) You can find out your state’s rules on credible identifying witnesses on the internet in your state notary handbook. The NNA often has technical information on state-specific Notary issues as well.

There are many situations where signers do not have identification on them. Here are a few.

1. The signer is in Jail. Laws for identifying jail inmates have changed recently in California. But, before, we needed to have the Attorney, girlfriend or mom bring two credible witnesses to the jail. Don’t depend on the wardens for this as they aren’t always nice. If they were nice, they’d probably be a bar tender or work at Starbucks and not be stuck in a jail — think about it!

2. The signer is in a hospital. Elderly people don’t always have drivers licenses. They often have expired licenses as well which cannot usually be used for notarizations. It is common to use a credible witness or two at a hospital or nursing home for an Acknowledgment or Jurat.

3. The signer lives in a bad neighborhood and got mugged. I notarized a young lady who didn’t look behind her enough. She got jumped in her driveway and lost her ID. When I notarized her, I needed the Oaths of two credible witnesses to identify her. I also thumbprinted her in my journal just to be on the safe side.

4. The signer doesn’t drive. Normally people have a state issued ID if they don’t drive, but a few elderly people just don’t have anything current.

5. The signer forgot their ID at home and you are meeting them somewhere else.

6. The signer’s name is Susie Johnson, but wants to be notarized as Angel Johnson. It might not be legal to use a credible witness in this circumstance unless she can’t find her ID. Hmmm.

Note: A subscribing witness is one that watches a signer sign or in the case of a proof of execution signs for them. A credible witness identifies the signer, and signs the journal as well. The credible witness must swear under Oath to the identity of the signer — which is something they don’t always know. “I just know him as Joe — I don’t know his full name.” — how “useful” from a legal point of view — but, most states allow this!

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