Missouri laws on notaries public can be found in Chapter 486, Title 32 of Code of Missouri. Pursuant to § 486.200 R.S.Mo., notary refers to a person appointed and commissioned to perform notarial acts. A notary includes an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Missouri. Pursuant to § 486.220 R.S.Mo., a notary public is not a public officer within the meaning of article VII of the Missouri Constitution.
Pursuant to § 486.200 R.S.Mo., the secretary of state appoints and commissions individual persons as notaries public in all the counties in the state of Missouri. The secretary of state should not appoint and commission a person submitting an application containing substantial and material misstatement or omission of fact[i].
Pursuant to § 486.210 R.S.Mo., a notary appointed by the secretary can perform notarial acts in every county within the state of Missouri. Pursuant to § 486.215 R.S.Mo., a notary public is appointed for a period of four years from the date of his/ her commission.
Pursuant to § 486.220 R.S.Mo., a person to be appointed and commissioned as a notary public must be at least eighteen years of age. The applicant must be a registered voter of the county within and for which s/he is commissioned and must have a residence address within that county. The applicant can be a resident alien of the U.S. The applicant must be able to read and write the English language. S/he must not have revoked his/her commission during the past ten years of service. Moreover, persons other than one qualified above can be appointed as a notary when the applicant:
- is at least eighteen years of age;
- is working in the state of Missouri and is suing the notary seal in the course employment;
- is having working address in the county within and for which s/he is commissioned;
- is capable of reading and writing English language;
- has not revoked a notary commission in any state during the past ten years; and
- authorizes the secretary of state as the agent and representative of the secretary to accept service of any process or service of any notice or demand required or permitted by law to be served upon him/her[ii].
Pursuant to § 486.225 R.S.Mo., an application for appointment as a notary public must be filed with the secretary of the state. The applicant for appointment and commission as a notary public shall swear, under penalty of perjury upon a form prepared by the secretary of state. The applicant must swear that:
- the answers to all questions on the application are true and complete to the best of the applicant’s knowledge; and
- s/he is qualified to be appointed and commissioned as a notary public.
Pursuant to § 486.225 R.S.Mo., the fees for appointment as a notary public is fifteen dollars. Moreover, the applicant must declare that s/he was never convicted of or plead guilty or nolo contendere to any felony; or to any misdemeanor incompatible with the duties of a notary public. When an applicant is previously convicted, s/he must attach a list of convictions; or pleas of guilt or nolo contendere. The secretary of state prescribes the manner for reappointment[iii].
Pursuant to § 486.225 R.S.Mo., the secretary rejecting an application for notary public can prohibit an applicant from making new application for a period not less than thirty days and not more than one year.
Pursuant to § 486.225 R.S.Mo.,an applicant before submitting an application must read the Missouri notary public handbook and complete a computer-based notary training and other notary training in a manner prescribed by the secretary of state.
Pursuant to § 486.235 R.S.Mo., notaries public must give a surety bond in the sum of ten thousand dollars with a company qualified to write surety bonds in the state of Missouri. The bond must be conditioned upon the faithful performance of all notarial acts. Moreover, notaries must notify the secretary of state of changes on or riders to the bond. Additionally, s/he must submit to the concerned county clerk of the county, an executed bond for a term of four years commencing at least ninety days after the date s/he submitted the application to the secretary of state. The notary must take an oath of office in the presence of the county clerk. The applicant must submit to the county clerk a handwritten specimen of the applicant’s official signature containing his/ her surname and at least the initial of the applicant’s first name. On receiving the bond and signature; and witnessing the oath, the county clerk awards commission to the applicant[iv].
Pursuant to § 486.250 R.S.Mo., powers of a notary include;
- taking acknowledgments;
- administering oaths and affirmations;
- certifying a copy of a document as a true copy; and
- performing other acts permitted by law.
Pursuant to § 486.255 R.S.Mo., a notary having a disqualifying interest in a transaction should not perform a notarial act. A notary has a disqualifying interest in a transaction when s/he provides a notarial service in a transaction in which s/he is a party to the transaction
Pursuant to § 486.280 R.S.Mo., a notary public should indicate clearly and legibly; in print not smaller than eight-point type; and by means of rubber stamp; typewriting or printing on notary certificate, his/her name, designation and the name of the county in the certificate.
Pursuant to § 486.350 R.S.Mo., maximum fees in the state of Missouri for notarization of each signature and the proper recording thereof in the journal of notarial acts is two dollars for each signature notarized. Additionally, the maximum fee for certification of a facsimile of a document and the proper recordation in the journal of notarial acts is two dollars for each 8 1/2 x 11 inch page retained in the notary’s file. For other notarial act performed, the maximum fee is one dollar. A notary should not charge or collect a fee for notarizing the signature on an absentee ballot or absentee voter registration. A notary public charging more than the maximum fee specified is guilty of official misconduct. However, a notary public can charge a travel fee, not to exceed the approved federal mileage. A notary when traveling to perform a notarial act can charge an expedited convenience service fee not to exceed twenty-five dollars. A notary charging expedited convenience service fee should explain to the person requesting the notarial act that the travel fee is separate from the notarial fee and is not specified or mandated by law. Moreover, the notary and the person requesting the notarial act must agree upon his/ her fees in advance[v].
Pursuant to § 486.355 R.S.Mo., a notary public and the surety or sureties on his/ her bond are liable to the persons involved for all damages proximately caused by the notary’s official misconduct. Pursuant to § 486.360 R.S.Mo., an employer of a notary public is liable when the employer is also liable to the persons involved for all damages proximately caused by the notary’s official misconduct. In order to fix employer’s liability, the notary public must be acting within the scope of his/her employment at the time he engaged in the official misconduct. Moreover, the employer must have consented to the notary public’s official misconduct[vi].
Pursuant to § 486.370 R.S.Mo., a notary public knowingly and willfully committing any official misconduct is guilty of a misdemeanor. Punishment provided is a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than six months or both. Additionally, a notary public recklessly or negligently committing any official misconduct is guilty of a misdemeanor and the punishment provided is a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars[vii].
Pursuant to § 486.375 R.S.Mo., a person impersonating a notary public is guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable upon conviction by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than six months or both. Pursuant to § 486.380 R.S.Mo., a person unlawfully possessing a notary’s journal, official seal or any papers or copies relating to notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable upon conviction by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars.
Pursuant to § 486.385 R.S.Mo., the secretary of state can reject an application or revoke the commission of any notary public when a notary public:
- submits an application containing substantial and material misstatement of facts;
- is convicted of felony or official misconduct;
- fails to exercise his/her official functions;
- is liable or agrees in a settlement to pay damages in any suit grounded in fraud, misrepresentation, impersonation, or violation of the state regulatory laws;
- represents or implies, by virtue of the title of notary public, that s/he has qualifications, powers, duties, rights, or privileges that he or she does not possess by law;
- engages in the unauthorized practice of law;
- ceases to be a citizen of the U S;
- ceases to be a registered voter of the concerned county ;
- ceases to have a residence address in the concerned;
- becomes incapable of reading or writing the English language; and
- fails to maintain the required surety bond.
Pursuant to § 486.385 R.S.Mo., a notary’s commission can be revoked when an action is taken subject to the rights of the notary public to notice, hearing, adjudication and appeal. Moreover, the secretary of state can suspend a notary when a serious unlawful effect can occur from notary’s act. However, the notary must be given written notice and is entitled to hearing and adjudication[viii].
Pursuant to § 486.390 R.S.Mo., the attorney general, or designee can maintain an action for injunctive relief in the circuit court of Cole County against a notary public for unauthorized practice of law. By showing good cause, an organized bar association in the state of Missouri can intervene in the action at any stage of the proceeding[ix].
Pursuant to § 486.396 R.S.Mo., when a notary seal is stolen, the notary should immediately notify the secretary of state in writing. On receiving a written documentation, the secretary of state should issue the notary a new commission number for the notary to order a new seal. Additionally, the secretary of state can post notice on the secretary of state’s web site notifying the general public that the notary seal of such notary with the stolen commission number is invalid[x].
[i] § 486.205 R.S.Mo.
[ii] § 486.220 R.S.Mo.
[iii] § 486.225 R.S.Mo.
[iv] § 486.235 R.S.Mo.
[v] § 486.350 R.S.Mo.
[vi] § 486.360 R.S.Mo.
[vii] § 486.370 R.S.Mo.
[viii] § 486.385 R.S.Mo.
[ix] § 486.390 R.S.Mo.
[x] § 486.396 R.S.Mo.