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Notary Notes

Answering the Criminal History Question on Your Application

by PAN

Applicants for a notary commission must provide information to the Department of State about their criminal history so the Department can fulfill its legal obligation to assess an applicant’s fitness to hold the office of notary public.

Applicants seem to provide either too much information or too little information when completing this part of the application.

The question states:

Have you ever been convicted or accepted Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition in resolution of a felony or misdemeanor preceding the date of this application? Conviction includes a finding of guilt by a court or jury, a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or a finding of not guilty due to insanity or of guilty but mentally ill. If yes, attach full details (name of court, plea/conviction/ARD, sentence and length of probation) and appropriate supporting documents with a signed and dated personal explanation.

If a criminal matter has been expunged or sealed, the applicant can check “no” to the criminal history question. The applicant must have an expungement order in hand or the crime which occurred in Pennsylvania must have been sealed under the Clean State Law.  A Pennsylvania crime which has been expunged or sealed does not appear on the Unified Judicial System portal’s docket sheets. The applicant must be sure that the matter is expunged or sealed before checking “no.”

Applicants also do not need to check “yes” for summary offenses. Most summary offenses now should be automatically sealed beginning June 2019 under the Clean Slate Law. But even if the summary offense is on the public record, it is not included in the above question, which asks only about felonies and misdemeanors.

  • There is no time limitation to this question. The question asks, “Have you ever…”
  • Don’t leave things out.
  • If this is your first disclosure of a criminal history, a personal statement AND documentation are required, even if it is only printed out from the public docket sheets. See
  • Crimes involving fraud, deceit, and dishonesty (theft/forgery/bad checks, etc.) and any felony offense require more explanation and documentation than a DUI or drug possession crimes.
  • If you reported a criminal history before and were approved for a notary commission, report it again when you apply to renew your commission.
  • Applications that make some vague reference to some past crimes, but don’t specify, will be rejected.
  • As with the criminal history question, applicants who check “yes” to the other legal questions but who supply no specific documentation or personal explanation will receive a rejection letter.

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