A notary public is a public official who authenticates signatures on legal documents, administers oaths and performs auxiliary duties, like verifying that a copy of a document is the same as the original. A notary's primary duty is to prevent fraud. A notary may only authenticate signatures where the notary personally knows the signator or has reviewed sources of identification approved by the notary's state. A notary public may authenticate the signatures of out-of-state residents signing documents in the notary's state, but may not authenticate documents signed in other states.
Notarial law is state law. Individual states have the power to grant notarial commissions that authorize notaries to perform duties within that state. States also regulate the notary public while her commission is effective to be sure the notary follows the state's notarial regulations. A notary public serves the citizens of her state and visitors within her state's borders. Her state commission does not empower her to perform notarial acts in other states.
A notary public who unlawfully performs notarial duties out of state can be disciplined by the state in which he performs the duty and by his own state. The state of Oregon, for example, can assess a civil penalty against a person who performs a notarial act in Oregon without a commission as an Oregon notary public. The state can also discipline an Oregon notary public who performs a notarial act in another state.
Wrong State on Documents
If a notary public performs a lawful notarial act in her own state but the notarial certificate has been filled in or printed with an out-of-state location, the notary must cross out the wrong state on the document. She must then print the state and county where the notarization is actually being performed on the certificate and initial the change.
When a notary public moves from one state to another, he must report the move to the state that authorized his notarial commission, resign his commission and relinquish his notarial journal to the state that commissioned him as a notary. He can apply for a notarial commission in his new state after he has met that state's residency requirements.
Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.