Virginia laws on notaries public can be found in Title 47.1 of Code of Virginia. Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-3, the Governor may appoint in and for the Commonwealth as many notaries as to him/her seems proper. Similarly, any person who acts as a notary in the Commonwealth should register with and should be commissioned by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
To be qualified to be commissioned as a notary in the Commonwealth, each such person should be[i]:
- at least eighteen years of age,
- a citizen of the U.S.,
- able to read and write the English language,
- should never have been convicted of a felony under the laws of the U.S., this Commonwealth or any other state, unless such person has been pardoned for such felony, has had his/her conviction vacated by the granting of a writ of actual innocence, or has had his/her rights restored, and
- should otherwise be in compliance with the provisions of title 47.1 of Code of Virginia.
A nonresident of Virginia may register and be commissioned as a notary only if s/he is regularly employed in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Similarly, a member of the armed services of the U.S. will be eligible to register and be commissioned as a notary.
Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-5 provides that no person should be commissioned as a notary public or electronic notary public until s/he submits an application fee and a complete and correct application to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, in a form prescribed by the Secretary, which should include the oath of the applicant. The Secretary may accept applications by electronic means.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-6.1, the Secretary of the Commonwealth should develop standards for electronic notarization and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency should provide assistance to the Secretary of the Commonwealth relating to the equipment, security, and technological aspects of the electronic notarization standards.
Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-8 provides that upon receipt of a completed application and the correct fee, the Secretary, if satisfied the applicant is qualified to be registered and commissioned as a notary public or electronic notary public, should prepare a notary commission for the applicant which includes a registration number and forward the commission for a notary public or electronic notary public to the clerk of the circuit court in which the applicant elects to qualify.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth should keep a record of the names of all notaries public and electronic notaries public and the dates of their registration and qualification[ii]. The Secretary should also retain a specimen of the signature of each notary public.
Each notary is empowered to perform the following notarial acts[iii]:
- take acknowledgments,
- administer oaths and affirmations,
- certify that a copy of any document, other than a document in the custody of a court, is a true copy thereof,
- certify affidavits or depositions of witnesses, and
- perform such other acts as may be specifically permitted by law.
A notary should exercise reasonable care in the performance of his/her duties generally[iv]. S/he should exercise a high degree of care in ascertaining the identity of any person whose identity is the subject of a notarial act.
Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-14 provides that a notary performing electronic notarial acts should keep, maintain, protect, and provide for lawful inspection an electronic record of notarial acts that contains at least the following for each notarial act performed:
- the date and time of day of the notarial act;
- the type of notarial act;
- the type, title, or a description of the document or proceeding;
- the printed name and address of each principal;
- the evidence of identity of each principal in the form of either a statement that the person is personally known to the notary, a notation of the type of identification document and, for credible witnesses who are not personally known to the notary or electronic notary, a description of the type of identification documents relied on by the notary; and
- the fee, if any, charged for the notarial act.
The electronic notary should take reasonable steps to:
- ensure the integrity, security, and authenticity of electronic notarizations,
- maintain a backup for his/her electronic record of notarial acts, and
- ensure protection of such backup records from unauthorized use.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-15, a notary should not:
- Notarize a document if the signer is not in the presence of the notary at the time of notarization, unless otherwise authorized by law to do so.
- Use the official notary title or seal to endorse, promote, denounce, or oppose any product, service, contest, candidate, or other offering.
- Notarize a signature on a document without notarial certificate wording on the same page as the signature unless the notarial certificate includes the name of each person whose signature is being notarized.
- Affix an official signature or seal on a notarial certificate that is incomplete.
Further, a notary should not perform any official act with the intent to deceive or defraud. Similarly, a nonattorney notary should not assist another person in drafting, completing, selecting, or understanding a document or transaction requiring a notarial act[v].
Every notarization should include the date upon which the notarial act was performed, and the county or city and state in which it was performed[vi].
The commission of a notary public is four years. The commission of a notary public expires in the fourth calendar year after issuance of his/her commission on the last day of the month in which the notary was born[vii].
A notary may resign his/her commission by mailing or delivering to the Secretary a letter of resignation[viii]. Any notary who ceases to be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia ceases to be a notary. However, such notary may maintain his/her commission with the written consent of the Secretary if s/he meets the qualifications for nonresident appointment.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-23, the Secretary may revoke the commission of any notary who:
- Submits or has submitted an application for commission and appointment as a notary public which contains a substantial and material misstatement of fact;
- Is convicted or has been convicted of any felony under the laws of the U.S. or this Commonwealth, or the laws of any other state, unless the notary has been pardoned for such offense, has had his/her conviction vacated by a granting of a writ of actual innocence, or has had his/her rights restored;
- Is found to have committed official misconduct;
- Fails to exercise the powers or perform the duties of a notary public;
- Performs a prohibited act;
- Is convicted of the unauthorized practice of law, or is a licensed attorney at law whose license is suspended or revoked;
- Ceases to be a citizen of the U.S.;
- Becomes incapable of reading or writing the English language;
- Is adjudicated mentally incompetent; or
- Fails to keep the official physical seal, journal, or device, coding, disk, certificate, card, software, or passwords used to affix the notary’s official electronic signature or seal under the exclusive control of the notary when not in use.
A notary public will be liable for all damages proximately caused by his/her official misconduct[ix]. Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-27 provides that the employer of a notary public also will be liable for all damages proximately caused by the official misconduct by such notary if:
- The notary public was acting within the scope of his/her employment at the time such damages were caused; and
- The employer had actual knowledge of, or reasonably should have known of, such notary’s misconduct.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-28, any notary who knowingly and willfully commits any official misconduct will be guilty of a Class threee misdemeanor. Also, any employer of a notary who willfully induces such notary to commit official misconduct will be guilty of a Class three misdemeanor.
Similarly, any person who knowingly and willfully misrepresents on an application for commission as a notary whether they have been convicted of any felony under the laws of this Commonwealth, of any other state, or of the U.S. will be guilty of a Class one misdemeanor.
Any person who willfully act as, or otherwise impersonate, a notary public while not lawfully commissioned as a notary public or other official authorized to perform notarial acts, will be guilty of a Class six felony[x].
Any person who knowingly obtains, conceals, damages, or destroys the certificate, disk, coding, card, program, software, or hardware enabling an electronic notary to affix an official electronic signature or seal, without authority, will be guilty of a Class one misdemeanor[xi].
No notary should perform any notarial act with respect to any document, writing, or electronic document to which the notary or his spouse is a party, or in which either of them has a direct beneficial interest[xii]. Similarly, a notary nominated as a fiduciary in a will should not, for that reason alone, be deemed a party to the will or to have a direct beneficial interest therein. Further, any notary who violates the provisions will be guilty of official misconduct.
[i] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-4.
[ii] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-10.
[iii] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-12.
[iv] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-14.
[v] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-15.
[vi] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-16.
[vii] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-21.
[viii] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-22.
[ix] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-26.
[x] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-29.
[xi] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-29.1.
[xii] Va. Code Ann. § 47.1-30.