What You Can and Cannot Do as a Notary
Knowing the limitations of your power as a notary is just as important as knowing the Notary Public Law. Here are some circumstances in which your authority to notarize is limited or prohibited.
- Certifying Copies of Official Documents — State and federal laws prohibit notaries from certifying copies of birth, death, naturalization certificates and copyrighted material.
- Notarizing blank documents, documents with blank spaces and documents without notarial wording — Because blank spaces could be filled in fraudulently at another time, ask your customer to draw lines through blank spaces before you notarize the document. If there is no notarial wording on a document, you cannot place your seal or signature on that document. You cannot pre-notarize a document for your customer to fill in later.
- Notarizing by proxy — You cannot give your notarial authority to another individual to notarize documents in your absence. Because your notarial commission is not transferable, you cannot delegate someone else to sign your name, use your rubber stamp or make entries in your notarial register.
- Giving legal advice — Unless you are an attorney licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, you cannot give legal advice, including telling your customers what to say in affidavits, describing, interpreting or explaining to the customers the content or legal implications of a document or choosing which notarial form to use.
- Advertising as a Notario Publico — Do not refer to yourself as a notario or notario publico. In Latin countries, this typically refers to an attorney.
- Notarizing for friends, relatives and employers — As long as you, the notary, have no direct personal or monetary interest in a transaction, you can perform notarial services for family members, relatives and employers. For example, you can notarize your brother’s signature on the title of his car, as long as you are not involved in buying or selling the car.
- Notarizing your own signature or taking your own oath or affirmation — You cannot notarize your own signature or administer an oath or affirmation to yourself.
- Notarizing rubber stamped signatures — You cannot take the acknowledgment of a rubber stamped signature. All signatures must be recognizable to you as original, handwritten signatures.
- Notarizing on Sundays and holidays — You can notarize on Sundays and holidays. You cannot, however, issue protests on days when banks are closed.
- Performing marriages — In the state of Pennsylvania, notaries are not permitted to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages.
- Mediating disputes — Notaries cannot mediate personal disputes or serve complaints against neighbors. Customers who need this type of service must go to a magisterial district judge.
- Acting as a bill collector — Placing a notarial seal on a past due bill means nothing. A notary is not a collection agent.
Learn the Notary Public Law and these limitations of power to avoid disciplinary actions that may include the suspension or revocation of your commission, a fine of up to $500 per violation, a written reprimand against you or the rejection of your application for reappointment.