Georgia laws on notaries public can be found in Chapter 17, Title 45 of Georgia code. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-1.1, the power to appoint notaries public is vested in the clerks of the superior courts and may be exercised by them at any time. Any individual applying for appointment to be a notary public must:
1) Be at least 18 years old;
2) Be a United States citizen or be a legal resident of the United States;
3) Be a legal resident of the county from which such individual is appointed;
4) Have, and provide at the time of the application, the applicant’s operating telephone number; and
5) Be able to read and write the English language[i].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-2.1, an application for appointment as notary should be submitted to the clerk of superior court of the county in which the individual resides or to the clerk of superior court of the county in which the individual works or has a business. The applicant must submit proof to the clerk of superior court that s/he resides in the county in which the applicant is applying. Such proof shall consist of one of the following:
1) A valid Georgia driver’s license;
2) A valid United States passport;
3) A valid voter identification card; or
4) Such other valid identification by a local or state government or by the United States government.
In addition to the application, every applicant for initial appointment as a notary public shall also submit an endorsement from two persons and declaration to the clerk of superior court of the county in which the individual makes application.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-2.3, after an applicant submits to the clerk of superior court of the county the application, endorsements, and declaration of applicant, the clerk of superior court either grants or denies a commission or recommission as a notary public within ten days following the applicant’s submission of the necessary documents. However, the clerk of superior court may in his or her discretion deny a commission or recommission to an applicant based on any of the following grounds:
1) The applicant’s criminal history;
2) Revocation, suspension, or restriction of any notary commission or professional license issued to the applicant by Georgia or any other state;
3) The commission in Georgia or any state of any act enumerated in subsection (a) of Code Section 45-17-15, whether or not criminal penalties or commission suspension or revocation resulted; or
4) The applicant is found by the State Bar of Georgia, a court of Georgia, or a court of any other state to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
Any applicant who is denied a notarial commission or recommission by the clerk of superior court shall upon demand be allowed a hearing and adjudication before the superior court clerk with a right of de novo appeal to the superior court, such appeal to be determined by the court without the intervention of a jury[ii].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-3, before entering on the duties of his or her office, each notary public must take and subscribe before the clerk of the superior court the following oath, which shall be entered on his or her minutes:
“I,do solemnly swear or affirm that I will well and truly perform the duties of a notary public to the best of my ability; and I further swear or affirm that I am not the holder of any public money belonging to the state and unaccounted for, so help me God.”
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-5, term of office is four years, subject to revocation at any time by the clerk of the superior court, at the end of which time, on petition, his commission may be renewed by order of the clerk for a like term. The clerk of the superior court must issue to each notary public a certificate of his or her appointment and qualifications, which certificate shall contain the name, address, age, and sex of the appointee, the date the certificate was issued, and the term for which the appointment runs.
It is unlawful for any person to hold himself or herself out as a notary public or to exercise the powers of a notary public unless such person has an unexpired commission as a notary public.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-6, for the authentication of his or her notarial acts each notary public must provide a seal of office, which seal shall have for its impression his or her name, the words “Notary Public,” the name of the state, and the county of his or her residence; or it shall have for its impression his or her name and the words “Notary Public, Georgia, State at Large.” Notaries commissioned or renewing their commission after July 1, 1985, shall provide a seal of office which shall have for its impression the notary’s name, the words “Notary Public,” the name of the state, and the county of his or her appointment.
It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to supply a notary public seal to any person unless the person has presented the duplicate original of the certificate commissioning the person as a notary public. It is unlawful for any person to order or obtain a notary public seal unless such person is commissioned as a notary public[iii].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-7, any person who is a resident of a state bordering on the State of Georgia and who carries on a business or profession in the State of Georgia or who is regularly employed in the State of Georgia may be commissioned as a notary public by the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the person carries on said profession, business, or employment. Such person must submit the application, endorsements, and declaration of applicant as required by Code Section 45-17-2.1 to the clerk of superior court in the county in which such person carries on such profession, business, or employment. The clerk of superior court must approve or deny such application based on the provisions of Code Section 45-17-2.3. Upon approval and payment of the usual fees to the clerk, the applicant is issued a certificate as a notary public of Georgia and is authorized to perform all of the duties and exercise all of the powers and authorities relating to notaries public who are residents of Georgia[iv].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-8, notaries public have authority to:
1) Witness or attest signature or execution of deeds and other written instruments;
2) Take acknowledgments;
3) Administer oaths and affirmations in all matters incidental to their duties as commercial officers and all other oaths and affirmations which are not by law required to be administered by a particular officer;
4) Witness affidavits upon oath or affirmation;
5) Take verifications upon oath or affirmation;
6) Make certified copies, provided that the document presented for copying is an original document and is neither a public record nor a publicly recorded document certified copies of which are available from an official source other than a notary and provided that the document was photocopied under supervision of the notary.
A notary is not obligated to perform a notarial act if s/he feels such act is:
1) For a transaction which the notary knows or suspects is illegal, false, or deceptive;
2) For a person who is being coerced;
3) For a person whose demeanor causes compelling doubts about whether the person knows the consequences of the transaction requiring the notarial act; or
4) In situations which impugn and compromise the notary’s impartiality.
A notary is disqualified from performing a notarial act in the following situations which impugn and compromise the notary’s impartiality:
1) When the notary is a signer of the document which is to be notarized; or
2) When the notary is a party to the document or transaction for which the notarial act is required.
In performing any notarial act, a notary public shall confirm the identity of the document signer, oath taker, or affirmant based on personal knowledge or on satisfactory evidence.
The signature of a notary public documenting a notarial act shall not be evidence to show that such notary public had knowledge of the contents of the document so signed, other than those specific contents which constitute the signature, execution, acknowledgment, oath, affirmation, affidavit, verification, or other act which the signature of that notary public documents, nor is a certification by a notary public that a document is a certified or true copy of an original document evidence to show that such notary public had knowledge of the contents of the document so certified[v].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-8.2, a notary who is not an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia is prohibited from representing or advertising that the notary is a “legal consultant” or an expert on legal matters. The Attorney General or prosecuting attorney may seek injunctive relief against any notary public who violates the provisions of this Code section. A violation of subsection (c) or (d) of this Code section constitutes a deceptive trade practice under Code Section 10-1-427 in addition to any other penalties provided by law.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-12, a notary public who is a stockholder, director, officer, or employee of a bank or other corporation can take the acknowledgment of any party to any written instrument executed to or by such corporation. Any such notary public may act and sign as official witness to the execution by any party of any written instrument executed to or by such bank or other corporation. Any such notary public may administer an oath to any other stockholder, director, officer, employee, or agent of such bank or other corporation or may protest for nonacceptance or nonpayment bills of exchange, drafts, checks, notes, and other negotiable instruments which may be owned or held for collection by such bank or other corporation. However, it is unlawful for any notary public to act and sign as official witness to or take the acknowledgment of an instrument executed by or to a bank or other corporation of which s/he is a stockholder, director, officer, or employee where such notary would be witnessing or acknowledging his or her own signature as it appears on the instrument[vi].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-14, Within ten days of the loss or theft of an official notarial seal, the notary public must send to the appointing clerk of superior court, with a copy to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, a written notice of the loss or theft.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-15, the appointing clerk of superior court may by letter, with a copy to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, revoke the commission or deny the reappointment of any notary public who:
1) Violates any provision of the chapter;
2) Performs any notarial act in violation of Code Section 45-17-8;
3) Is found to have submitted an application or endorsement for a notarial commission containing substantial and significant misstatement or omission of fact;
4) Ceases to reside or work or have a business in Georgia; or
5) Becomes incapable of reading and writing the English language.
Within ten days after receiving notice from the appointing clerk of superior court that a notarial commission has been revoked, an individual must send or deliver to the appointing clerk of superior court all papers of appointment. Such individual must also destroy the official notarial seal[vii].
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-17, a person who wishes to resign a notarial commission shall send a signed letter of resignation to the appointing clerk of superior court, with a copy to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, and all papers of appointment. The resigning notary public shall destroy the official notarial seal.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-18, a notary public whose commission expires and who does not apply for renewal of such commission or whose application for renewal of a commission is denied shall destroy the official notary seal.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-19, the authenticity of the official signature and term of office of a notary public may be evidenced by:
1) A certificate of authority from the appointing clerk of superior court or the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority; or
2) An apostille in the exact form prescribed by the Hague Convention from the Secretary of State, provided that an apostille shall be obtained only from the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority on or after the thirtieth day following the designation, by the United States Department of State, of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority as an authority in the United States competent to issue an apostille.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-20, any person who performs any notarial service without complying with the provisions of this article, upon the first or second conviction, is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon a third or subsequent conviction is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, a fine of up to $5,000.00, or both.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-30, alll commissioned officers of all branches of the armed services of the United States of America are constituted ex officio notaries public of Georgia and as such are authorized, within and outside the United States of America, to administer oaths, take acknowledgments, and attest instruments conveying or affecting property in Georgia. Acts performed by such officers as authorized in this Code section shall have the same effect as if performed within this state by notaries public of Georgia.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-17-34, if the signature, rank, and branch of service, or subdivision thereof, of any commissioned officer provided for in Code Section 45-17-30 appears upon any instrument, document, or certificate, no further proof of the authority of such officer so to act shall be required; and such action by such commissioned officer shall be prima-facie evidence that the person making such oath or acknowledgment is within the purview of Code Sections 45-17-30 through 45-17-33 and this Code section.
[i] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-2.
[ii] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-2.3.
[iii] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-6.
[iv] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-7.
[v] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-8.
[vi] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-12.
[vii] O.C.G.A. § 45-17-16.