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Notary Notes

When Refusing Service is the Right Thing to do

by PAN
One of the most important abilities you can develop as a notary public is the ability to determine when you can perform a notarial act and when you must refuse service. The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) specifically authorizes you to refuse a customer's request: Section 308(b) states that a notary "may refuse to perform a notarial act unless refusal is prohibited by law ..."

One situation in which you must refuse to act as a notary is in dealing with the federal Department of Homeland Security's Form I-9 - Employment Eligibility Verification. The I-9 does not require any of the notarial acts a Pennsylvania notary is empowered to perform. Although you may sign the form as the agent of an employer, you are not doing so in your capacity as a notary and you cannot place your official stamp on the firm.

Another situation in which you must refuse service is when you are presented with the U. S. Postal Service's Form 1583 - Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent. Applicants use this form to authorize the Postal Service to deliver their incoming mail to an agent of the applican'ts choosing. Although the instructions on Form 1583 direct the applicant to "execute this form in duplicate in the presence of the agent, his or her authorized employee, or a notary public," the form does not require you to perform a notarial act.

Pennsylvnaia notaries have the power to perform six distinct notarial acts:
  1. taking an acknowledgment
  2. administering an oath or affirmation
  3. taking a verification on oath or affirmation (otherwise known as an affidavit)
  4. witnessing or attesing a signature
  5. certifying a copy of a record or deposition; and
  6. noting a protest of a negotiable instrument
RULONA Section 315 requires every notarial act to be evidenced by a certificate (notarial wording) including the venue (state and county) where the notarial act was performed; the notary's signature, title and commission expiration date; and the date of the notarial act. On paper recrods, the notary's official stamp "shall be affixed to the certificate near the notary's signature in a form capabel of photographic reproduction."  Section 316 contains short form certificates which are sufficient if they are completed with the proper information. Finally, Section 317 states that the notary's official stamp "shall be used to authenticate at all the acts, instruments and attestatons of the notary public."

Like the DHS Form I-9, the Postal Services Form 1683 does not contain any notarial wording. The form does not provide a pre-printed notarilal certificate, nor enough space where you could legibly write a certificate and apply your official seal.

If you sign one of these forms in your capacity as a notary and apply your official stamp, youmay face sanctions up to and including the loss of your commission. In RULONA Section 323, the Department of State is authorized to sanction a notary for, among other offenses, failing to "discharge a duty required of a notary public, whether by this chapter, by regulation of the department or by Federal or State law." The Department may impose an administrative penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense. In addition, a violation of RULONA or Department regulations carries a criminal penalty (summary offense) and a fine of up to $1,000 for each conviction.


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