Michigan laws on notaries public can be found in Chapter 55 of Michigan Compiled Laws Service. Pursuant to MCLS § 55.269, the secretary appoints notaries public in the state of Michigan. A notary public resides in, moves to, and performs notarial acts everywhere in the state of Michigan from the date of appointment until the notary’s birthday occurring not less than six years and not more than seven years after the date of his/ her appointment unless the appointment is canceled, suspended, or revoked by the secretary or by operation of law. The secretary should not appoint a person serving a term of imprisonment in a state correctional facility or jail in the state of Michigan, any other state, or in a federal correctional facility as a notary public[i].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.271, an applicant for notary public must be:
- a person of eighteen years of age;
- a resident of the state of Michigan or a person maintaining a principal place of business in the state of Michigan;
- capable of reading and writing the English language; and
- free of any felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions, and other violations.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.271, a person not residing in the state of Michigan applying for a notary public should demonstrate that his/ her principal place of business is located in the county in which s/he requests appointment. Additionally, the applicant must show that s/he is engaged in an activity in which s/he is likely to be required to perform notarial acts. The applicant should file with the county clerk of his/ her county of residence or expected appointment a proper surety bond and take an oath as prescribed by the constitution in a format acceptable to the secretary. The requirement of filing a bond does not apply to an applicant demonstrating in a manner acceptable to the secretary, licensure as an attorney at law in the state of Michigan. Moreover, the secretary should on a monthly basis notify the county clerk’s office of the appointment of notaries[ii].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.273, within 90 days before filing an application for a notary public appointment a person should file with the county clerk of his/ her residence or expected appointment a proper surety bond for sum of $10,000.00 and should take oath as prescribed by the constitution. The bond should be with good and sufficient surety by a surety licensed to do business in the state of Michigan. The bond should be conditioned upon indemnifying or reimbursing a person, financing agency, or governmental agency for monetary loss caused through the official misconduct of the notary public in the performance of a notarial act. The surety is required to indemnify or reimburse only after a judgment based on official misconduct has been entered in a court of competent jurisdiction against the notary public. The aggregate liability of the surety shall not exceed the sum of the bond. The surety on the bond can cancel the bond sixty days after the surety notifies the notary, the secretary, and the county clerk of the cancellation[iii].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.279, the secretary cannot automatically reappoint a notary public. A person desiring another notary public appointment can apply to the secretary in a format prescribed by the secretary for an original appointment as a notary public. The application should be submitted not more than sixty days before the expiration of current notary public commission[iv].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.285, notarial acts include: taking acknowledgments, administering oaths and affirmations, witnessing or attesting to a signature. While taking an acknowledgment, the notary public should determine that the person in the presence of the notary public and making the acknowledgment is the person whose signature is on the record. While taking a verification upon oath or affirmation, the notary public determines that the person in the presence of the notary public and making the verification is the person whose signature is on the record being verified. While witnessing or attesting to a signature the notary public determines that the signature is that of the person who is in the presence of the notary public and is the person named in the record[v].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.285 the fee charged by a notary public for performing a notarial act should not be more than $10.00 for any individual transaction or notarial act. A notary public can refuse to perform a notarial act. The secretary prescribes the form for all notarial acts. A county clerk can collect a processing fee of $10.00 for certifying a notarial act of a notary public. MCLS § 55.285.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.291 prohibited conduct of a notary public include:
- certifying or notarizing that a record is an original or true copy of another record;
- a notarial act upon any record executed by himself/ herself;
- notarizing his/ her own signature;
- taking his/ her own deposition or affidavit.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.291 a notary public should not claim to have powers, qualifications, rights, or privileges that the office of notary does not provide. A notary public should not do any act implying that the person is an attorney. A notary public should not use the term notario publico or any equivalent non-English term in any business card, advertisement, notice, or sign. A notary public should not perform any notarial act in connection with a transaction if the notary public has a conflict of interest. A notary public shouldl not perform a notarial act for a spouse, lineal ancestor, lineal descendant, or sibling. MCLS § 55.291.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.297, regarding the official misconduct of a notary public, the notary public and the sureties of the notary public’s surety bond are liable in a civil action for the damages sustained by the persons injured. The employer of a notary public is also liable. A notary public and the notary public’s sureties are not liable for the truth, form, or correctness of the contents of a record upon which the notary public performs a notarial act. MCLS § 55.297
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.299, for violations of notary public laws the secretary investigates or cause to be investigated by local authorities and report to attorney general.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.300a an applicant for an appointment or a commissioned notary public engaged in a prohibited act is subject to criminal penalties. Criminal penalties include:
- suspension or revocation of his/ her certificate of appointment;
- denial of an application for appointment;
- a civil fine paid to the department in an amount not to exceed $1,000.00;
- affirmative action as determined necessary by the secretary like payment of restitution to an injured person;
- a letter of censure; and
- reimburse the secretary for the costs of the investigation.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.300a the secretary imposes one or more of the criminal penalties for the following acts:
- Violation of provisions of the Act, rules made under the Act or order issued under the Act;
- Commission of an act of official misconduct, dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or of any cause substantially relating to the duties or responsibilities of a notary public or the character or public trust necessary to be a notary public;
- Failure to perform notary public duties under the Act;
- Failure to fully and faithfully discharge a duty or responsibility required of a notary public;
- Finding by a court of competent jurisdiction liable for damages in an action grounded in fraud, misrepresentation, or violation of the Act;
- Representation or advertisement that s/he has duties, rights, or privileges that s/he does not possess by law;
- Charging excess fee more than is allowed under the act;
- Failure to complete the notary public’s acknowledgment at the time the notary public signed or affixed his/ her signature or seal to a record;
- Failure to administer an oath or affirmation as required by law;
- Engagement in the unauthorized practice of law as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction;
- Ceases to maintain his/ her residence or principal place of business in the state of Michigan;
- Lacking adequate ability to read and write English;
- Refusal to a request by the secretary for notary public records or papers;
- Engagement in unfair or deceptive method including the making of an untrue;
- statement of a material fact relating to a duty or responsibility of a notary public;
- unlawful use of a notary public’s seal; and
- failure to maintain good moral character.
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.300a, before the secretary takes any action, the person affected is given notice and an opportunity for a hearing. When a person holding office as a notary public is sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a state correctional facility or jail in the state of Michigan, any other state or in a federal correctional facility, that person’s commission as a notary public is revoked automatically. When a person’s commission as a notary public is revoked because the person begins serving a term of imprisonment and that person performs or attempts to perform a notarial act while imprisoned, that person is not eligible to receive a commission as a notary public for at least 10 years after the person completes his/ her term of imprisonment. The cancellation of a commission is without prejudice to reapplication at any time. However, a person whose commission is revoked is ineligible for the issuance of a new commission for at least five years. Moreover, a fine imposed remaining unpaid for more than 180 days is referred to the department of treasury for collection. The department of treasury collects the fine by deducting the amount owed from a payroll or tax refund warrant. The secretary can bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the amount of a civil fine[vi].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.301, when a notary public of the state of Michigan is convicted of a felony or of a substantially corresponding violation of another state, the secretary automatically revokes the notary public commission of that person on the date that the person’s felony conviction is entered. When a notary public is convicted of two or more misdemeanor offenses involving a violation of the Act within a twelve month period while commissioned, or of three or more misdemeanor offenses involving a violation of the Act within a five year period regardless of being commissioned, the secretary automatically revokes the notary public commission of that person on the date that the person’s most recent misdemeanor conviction is entered. Additionally, when a notary public is sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a state correctional facility or jails that person’s commission as a notary public is revoked automatically on the day on which the person begins serving the sentence in the jail or correctional facility. When a person’s commission as a notary public is revoked as above, that person is not eligible to receive a commission as a notary public for at least ten years after the person completes his/ her term of imprisonment[vii].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.301, a person found guilty of performing a notarial act after his/ her commission is revoked is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $3,000.00 or by imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. A person convicted of a felony is disqualified from being commissioned as a notary public for not less than ten years after the person completes his/her sentence for that crime. The term includes: parole or probation; and pays all fines, costs, and assessments. When the person convicted is a notary the court should inform the secretary of the conviction[viii].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.305, when it appears to the secretary that a person has engaged or is about to engage in an act or practice constituting, will constitute a violation of the Act, a rule promulgated under the Act or an order issued under the Act, the attorney general can petition a circuit court for injunctive relief. A circuit court can issue a permanent or temporary injunction; or restraining order to enforce the provisions of the Act. A party to the action has the right to appeal within sixty days from the date the order or judgment of the court. Additionally, the court can order a person subject to an injunction to reimburse the secretary for the actual expenses incurred in the investigation related to the petition. The secretary should refund the amount received as reimbursement when the injunction or restraining order later be dissolved by an appellate court[ix].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.307, the certificate of a notary public of official acts performed in the capacity of a notary public under the seal of office is presumptive evidence of the facts contained in the certificate in the state of Michigan. However, the certificate is not evidence of a notice of nonacceptance or nonpayment in cases in which a defendant attaches to his/ her pleadings an affidavit denying the fact of having received the notice of nonacceptance or nonpayment[x].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.309, a person violating the act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000.00 or by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both. An action concerning a fee charged for a notarial act should be filed in the district court in the place where the notarial act occurred. The penalties and remedies under the act are cumulative. The bringing of an action or prosecution under the Act does not bar an action or prosecution under other applicable law[xi].
Pursuant to MCLS § 55.311, the notary fees fund is created in the state treasury. The fund includes: an application processing fee, duplicate notary public certificate of appointment processing fee, certification processing fee, copying processing fee, reimbursement costs, or administrative fine collected. Moreover, processing or filing fee paid to the secretary or county clerk is not refundable[xii].
[i] MCLS § 55.269.
[ii] MCLS § 55.271.
[iii] MCLS § 55.273.
[iv] MCLS § 55.279.
[v] MCLS § 55.285.
[vi] MCLS § 55.300a.
[vii] MCLS § 55.301.
[ix] MCLS § 55.305.
[x] MCLS § 55.307.
[xi] MCLS § 55.309.
[xii] MCLS § 55.311.