When a complaint is filed against a notary, what do officials from the Department of State check first?
The notary’s official register, of course. The register is a detailed chronological record of every notarial act a notary performs. In Pennsylvania, a register is required by law.
Formal complaints against notaries may be filed by the general public, members of the legal community or other government agencies. When a complaint against a notary is received in Harrisburg, the Secretary of State notifies the notary, who then has 30 days to respond.
The notarial register provides evidence that the notary performed his or her duties correctly. If a notary does not produce a register or the register is incomplete, he or she will be charged with failure to keep a register.
In 2008, notaries from Allegheny to Berks, Luzerne to Schuylkill counties have been fined and had their commissions suspended for failing to keep and maintain custody and control of an accurate chronological register. The fines ranged from $150 to $500, with commission suspensions of up to one year.
Entering accurate information into the notarial register is also a requirement of the Pennsylvania Notary Public Law.
Under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, anyone who knowingly enters false information into a public record (such as a notarial register) is guilty of perjury and falsification in official matters, a crime that is punishable as a second-degree misdemeanor. Information entered into the register with the intent to defraud or injure someone is punishable as a third-degree felony.
Because a notarial transaction can be called into question years after the fact, it is important to make your register your best source of evidence. Remember to jot down any special circumstances or observations you make about the transaction, such as the behavior or appearance of the customer, or the format of the document.