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Florida Laws on Notaries Public

Florida laws on notaries public can be found in Chapter 117, Title 10 of Florida statutes.  Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.01, the Governor may appoint as many notaries public as s/he deems necessary, each of whom shall be at least 18 years of age and a legal resident of the state.  Notaries public shall be appointed for 4 years and shall use and exercise the office of notary public within the boundaries of Florida.  An applicant must be able to read, write, and understand the English language.

The application for appointment shall be signed and sworn to by the applicant and shall be accompanied by a fee of $ 25, together with the $ 10 commission fee, and a surcharge of $ 4, which $ 4 is appropriated to the Executive Office of the Governor to be used to educate and assist notaries public.  No commission fee shall be required for the issuance of a commission as a notary public to a veteran who served during a period of wartime service, and who has been rated by the United States Government or the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a disability rating of 50 percent or more.  The oath of office and notary bond shall also accompany the application and shall be in a form prescribed by the Department of State which shall require, but not be limited to, the following information: full name, residence address and telephone number, business address and telephone number, date of birth, race, sex, social security number, citizenship status, driver’s license number or the number of other official state-issued identification, affidavit of good character from someone unrelated to the applicant who has known the applicant for 1 year or more, a list of all professional licenses and commissions issued by the state during the previous 10 years and a statement as to whether or not the applicant has had such license or commission revoked or suspended, and a statement as to whether or not the applicant has been convicted of a felony, and, if there has been a conviction, a statement of the nature of the felony and restoration of civil rights.  The applicant may not use a fictitious or assumed name other than a nickname on an application for commission.  The Governor may suspend a notary public for any of the grounds provided in §7, Art. IV of the State Constitution.  Grounds constituting malfeasance, misfeasance, or neglect of duty include, but are not limited to, the following:

1) A material false statement on the application.
2) A complaint found to have merit by the Governor.
3) Failure to cooperate or respond to an investigation by the Governor’s office or the Department of State regarding a complaint.
4) Official misconduct as defined in §. 838.022.
5) False or misleading advertising relating to notary public services.
6) Unauthorized practice of law.
7) Failure to report a change in business or home address or telephone number, or failure to submit documentation to request an amended commission after a lawful name change, within the specified period of time.
8) Commission of fraud, misrepresentation, or any intentional violation of this chapter.
9) Charging fees in excess of fees.
10) Failure to maintain the bond[i].

A notary public who wishes to resign his or her commission, or a notary public who does not maintain legal residence in this state during the entire term of appointment, or a notary public whose resignation is required by the Governor, shall send a signed letter of resignation to the Governor and shall return his or her certificate of notary public commission.  The resigning notary public shall destroy his or her official notary public seal of office, unless the Governor requests its return.

A notary public shall, prior to executing the duties of the office and throughout the term of office, give bond, payable to any individual harmed as a result of a breach of duty by the notary public acting in his or her official capacity, in the amount of $ 7,500, conditioned for the due discharge of the office and shall take an oath that s/he will honestly, diligently, and faithfully discharge the duties of the notary public[ii].

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.021, any document requiring notarization may be notarized electronically.  In performing an electronic notarial act, a notary public shall use an electronic signature that is:

1) Unique to the notary public;
2) Capable of independent verification;
3) Retained under the notary public’s sole control; and
4) Attached to or logically associated with the electronic document in a manner that any subsequent alteration to the electronic document displays evidence of the alteration.

When a signature is required to be accompanied by a notary public seal, the requirement is satisfied when the electronic signature of the notary public contains all of the following seal information:

1) The full name of the notary public exactly as provided on the notary public’s application for commission;
2) The words “Notary Public State of Florida”;
3) The date of expiration of the commission of the notary public; and
4) The notary public’s commission number[iii].

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.03, a notary public may administer an oath and make a certificate thereof when it is necessary for the execution of any writing or document to be published under the seal of a notary public.  The notary public may not take an acknowledgment of execution in lieu of an oath if an oath is required.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.04, a notary public is authorized to take the acknowledgments of deeds and other instruments of writing for record, as fully as other officers of Florida.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.045, a notary public is authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony.  For solemnizing the rites of matrimony, the fee of a notary public may not exceed those provided by law to the clerks of the circuit court for like services.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 117.05, no person shall obtain or use a notary public commission in other than his or her legal name, and it is unlawful for a notary public to notarize his or her own signature.  Any person applying for a notary public commission must submit proof of identity to the Department of State if so requested. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in §. 775.082, § 775.083, or § 775.084.

A notary public seal shall be affixed to all notarized paper documents and shall be of the rubber stamp type and shall include the words “Notary Public-State of Florida.”  The seal shall also include the name of the notary public, the date of expiration of the commission of the notary public, and the commission number.  The rubber stamp seal must be affixed to the notarized paper document in photographically reproducible black ink.  Every notary public shall print, type, or stamp below his or her signature on a paper document his or her name exactly as commissioned. An impression-type seal may be used in addition to the rubber stamp seal, but the rubber stamp seal shall be the official seal for use on a paper document, and the impression-type seal may not be substituted therefore[iv].

The notary public official seal and the certificate of notary public commission are the exclusive property of the notary public and must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public.  The seal and certificate of commission must not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, regardless of whether the employer paid for the seal or for the commission.

Any person who unlawfully possesses a notary public official seal or any papers or copies relating to notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in §. 775.082 or § 775.083.  A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document unless s/he personally knows, or has satisfactory evidence, that the person whose signature is to be notarized is the individual who is described in and who is executing the instrument.

The employer of a notary public shall be liable to the persons involved for all damages proximately caused by the notary’s official misconduct, if the notary public was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time the notary engaged in the official misconduct.  Any person who acts as or otherwise willfully impersonates a notary public while not lawfully appointed and commissioned to perform notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in § 775.082 or §. 775.083.  Any notary public who knowingly acts as a notary public after his or her commission has expired is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in § 775.082 or § 775.083[v].

Pursuant to  Fla. Stat. § 117.107, following are the prohibited acts.

1) A notary public may not use a name or initial in signing certificates other than that by which the notary public is commissioned.

2) A notary public may not sign notarial certificates using a facsimile signature stamp unless the notary public has a physical disability that limits or prohibits his or her ability to make a written signature and unless the notary public has first submitted written notice to the Department of State with an exemplar of the facsimile signature stamp.

3) A notary public may not affix his or her signature to a blank form of affidavit or certificate of acknowledgment and deliver that form to another person with the intent that it be used as an affidavit or acknowledgment.

4) A notary public may not take the acknowledgment of or administer an oath to a person whom the notary public actually knows to have been adjudicated mentally incapacitated by a court of competent jurisdiction, where the acknowledgment or oath necessitates the exercise of a right that has been removed pursuant to § 744.3215(2) or (3), and where the person has not been restored to capacity as a matter of record.

5) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if it appears that the person is mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document at the time of notarization.

6) A notary public may not take the acknowledgment of a person who does not speak or understand the English language, unless the nature and effect of the instrument to be notarized is translated into a language which the person does understand.

7) A notary public may not change anything in a written instrument after it has been signed by anyone.

8) A notary public may not amend a notarial certificate after the notarization is complete.

9) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is being notarized is not in the presence of the notary public at the time the signature is notarized.  Any notary public who violates this subsection is guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by penalty not exceeding $ 5,000, and such violation constitutes malfeasance and misfeasance in the conduct of official duties.  It is no defense to the civil infraction specified in this subsection that the notary public acted without intent to defraud.  A notary public who violates this subsection with the intent to defraud is guilty of violating § 117.105.

10) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the document is incomplete or blank.  However, an endorsement or assignment in blank of a negotiable or nonnegotiable note and the assignment in blank of any instrument given as security for such note is not deemed incomplete.

11) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is to be notarized is the spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father of the notary public.

12) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction.  However, a notary public who is an employee may notarize a signature for his or her employer, and this employment does not constitute a financial interest in the transaction nor make the notary a party to the transaction as long as s/he does not receive a benefit other than his or her salary and the fee for services as a notary public authorized by law.  A notary public who is an attorney does not have a financial interest in and is not a party to the underlying transaction evidenced by a notarized document if s/he notarizes a signature on that document for a client for whom s/he serves as an attorney of record and s/he has no interest in the document other than the fee paid to him or her for legal services and the fee authorized by law for services as a notary public.

[i] Fla. Stat. § 117.01.

[ii] Fla. Stat. § 117.01.

[iii] Fla. Stat. § 117.021.

[iv] Fla. Stat. § 117.105.

[v] Fla. Stat. § 117.105.

Inside Florida Laws on Notaries Public