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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Glossary Entry — Credible Witness
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