Complaint of Notary Misconduct
Did you receive a complaint of notary misconduct from the Notary Section of the Executive Office of the Florida Governor? If so, the Governor’s office will notify you of the complaint and a possible criminal investigation into violations of Fla. Stat. 117.105 or 117.107.
If you are suspected of misconduct then contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, to discuss representation for a disciplinary hearing or a criminal investigation.
We represent clients charged with white collar crimes such as a felony charge of taking or receiving an acknowledgment of a signature on a written instrument. We also represent clients for the related disciplinary hearings throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County and Hernando County, FL.
The notary public or the employer of the notary public can be held liable for any civil damages caused by the misconduct. Contact us to discuss the different types of civil liability that could be imposed.
Responding to the Complaint of Misconduct
After receiving the complaint, the State of Florida Office of the Governor will send the notary public a copy of the compliant of notary misconduct. The letter is sent via certified mail. The letter will notify you that the Notary Section of the Florida’s Governor’s Executive Office is conducting an investigation of the reported notary misconduct.
The letter will often ask the notary to use the enclosed forms to provide a sworn written response to each of the matters listed. The letter states that the response is due within twenty (20) calendar days of the date of the letter. The notary is asked to respond with specificity and include any supporting documentation, notary journal logs, or materials relevant to the investigation.
The failure to fully and promptly cooperate with the investigation conducted by the Notary Section of the Florida Governor’s Executive Office will result in disciplinary action which can include suspension of the notary commission.
On the other hand, if the information that you might provide could incriminate you, then a criminal defense attorney might advise you to remain silent about the allegations. In such cases, you may decide to resign your commission.
Any information you provide the Notary Section for their disciplinary hearing can also be used against you in a criminal investigation that might result in a warrant for your arrest and a felony prosecution. Criminal investigations often accompany the investigation by the Notary Section. If you are concerned about any criminal misconduct then never complete the “Sworn Response of Notary Public” form without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney.
The Notary Misconduct Complaint Form
Many of these investigations are triggered after a person completes “The Governor’s Office Notary Section Internet Complaint Form.” The complaining witness is required to include a copy of the improperly notarized document along with the complaint form. The form requires information about the Notary’s Name, Commission Number and Expiration Date.
The form requires the complaining witnesses to describe the compliant by providing facts of alleged misconduct and a copy of the improperly notarized document.
A copy of this complaint form and the improperly notarized document will be attached to your letter about the investigation.
Different Types of Notary Misconduct
Florida law provides for several different types of notary misconduct including:
- The signer is not present with notary at time of signature – Florida Statute Section 117.107(9) requires: “A notary public may not notarize the signature on a document if the person whose signature is being notarized is not in the presence of the notary public at the time the signature is notarized.” Florida law does not provide any exceptions to the presence requirement.
- Failure to Confirm the Identity of the Person Who Signs – Florida Statute Section 117.05(5) requires: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document unless he or she personally knows, or has satisfactory evidence, that the person whose signature is to be notaries is the individual who is described in and who is executing the instrument.” Florida law provides that confirming the identity of the parties whose signatures are to be notarized is a fundamental responsibility of a notary public.
- Leaving Substantial Portions of the Jurat of the Instrument Blank Prior to Notarization – Florida Statute Section 817.107(10) provides: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the document is incomplete or blank.” A complete jurat must include the venue of the notarization, the name of the parties whose signature were being notarized, and the particular form of identification the notary relied on to confirm the identities of the signatories.
Criminal Allegations for Notaries Pubic
The statutory scheme for notaries public provides for numerous acts that constitute a criminal offense. Many of these crimes can be charged as a third degree felony.
Use of Notary Public Commission in a False Name
Under Florida Statute Section 117.05(1), it is a third degree felony for any person to obtain or use a notary public commission in any name other than his or her legal name. Any person applying for a notary public commission must submit proof of identity to the Florida Department of State if requested.
Falsely Taking or Receiving an Acknowledgment of a Signature on a Written Instrument
One of the most common criminal charges that results from an investigation by the Notary Section is for “Falsely Taking or Receiving an Acknowledgment of a Signature on a Written Instrument. This allegation under Florida Statute Section 117.05 is a third degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison and/or a five thousand dollar fine.
Possession of a Notary Public Official Seal
Under 117.05(3)(d) it is a second degree misdemeanor for any person to unlawfully possesses a notary public official seal or any papers or copies relating to notarial acts.
The Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries explains the complaint process. If the allegations are unfounded, the complaint is dismissed.
If the allegations prove to be true, then the Notary Section might recommend disciplinary action which can include:
- letter of advice in which the notary is advised of the improper action and a method for correcting the error;
- a written reprimand and warning that any further violations will result in stronger disciplinary action; or
- a request for the notary’s resignation.
When the notary resigns, the complaint is closed without further action, however, in most cases, the notary will not be appointed again. If the complaint involves criminal allegations, then the complaint is referred to the appropriate State Attorney’s Office for investigation.
The strongest and rarest form of disciplinary action is suspension filed by the office of the Governor. This process involves the Governor using an executive order which is filed with the Secretary of State and notary to appear before The Florida Senate for a hearing or trial on the matter. The Senate makes the final determination of whether the notary should be permanently removed from office.
Suspensions are most common when the notary is convicted of a felony while commissioned, the notary refuses to resign, or the notary cannot be contacted for a response.
How Do I Resign my Notary Commission?
To resign your commission, you must submit a written letter of resignation to the Governor’s Office. The letter must specify an effective date. You must return your notary commission certification with the letter. Return the original commission certification and not a copy.Notary Section
Office of the Governor
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
I am resigning my notary public commission effective today, October 13, 2014.
SIGNATURE OF NOTARY
PRINTED NAME OF NOTARY
Finding an Attorney for Notary Misconduct
If you have been accused of notary misconduct by the Notary Section of the State of Florida Office of the Governor then contact an experienced criminal defense. We are experienced in representing clients in a wide variety of disciplinary actions and administrative actions.
We represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County and Hernando County, FL.
Article last updated by Jason D. Sammis on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.