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CHAPTER III.

Misconduct by notaries public or others in connection with notarial acts may be addressed through criminal, civil or administrative laws and proceedings.

Criminal misconduct may be a felony, misdemeanor or infraction. A felony is punishable by a term in state prison or county jail. A fine may also be imposed in addition to any imprisonment. A misdemeanor is punishable by a term in jail, probation, a fine or all three. An infraction is punishable by a fine. Criminal misconduct may result in the revocation, suspension or denial of a notary publicís commission or application.

Civil misconduct subjects a notary public to fines and may also lead to suspension or revocation of the notary publicís commission or denial of a notary public application by the California Secretary of State. California Government Code section 8214.1(e)

Also, a notary public and the sureties on the notary publicís official bond are liable in a civil action for all the damages sustained from a notary publicís misconduct. California Government Code section 8214

Administrative action can be taken against a notary public or notary public applicant to suspend or revoke a notary public commission or deny a notary public application for failing to discharge the duties and responsibilities required of a notary public. California Government Code section 8214.1(d)

Part A. Conflict of Interest

A notary public who has a direct financial or beneficial interest in a transaction cannot perform any notarial act in connection with that transaction. California Government Code section 8224.

Best practices tip: Since California is a community property state, it is important for a notary public to exercise great care when performing notarial services for a spouse or domestic partner in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Section 1. Financial Transactions

If a notary public is named individually as a principal in a financial transaction, the notary public has a direct financial or beneficial interest in the transaction and a conflict of interest and cannot perform any notarial acts in connection with that transaction. California Government Code section 8224. For example, if the notary public is named as a party in a contract or is assigned the proceeds of a sale, the notary public has a direct financial conflict of interest and must not perform any notarial acts in connection with the transaction.

Section 2. Real Property

In the area of real property, a notary public has a conflict of interest if the notary public is a grantor, grantee, mortgagor, mortgagee, trustor, trustee, beneficiary, vendor, vendee, lessor, or lessee in the transaction. California Government Code section 8224. For example, if a notary public is a grantee of a deed of sale for a house or is assigned rents or is paying off a home mortgage, the notary public is prohibited from performing any notarial act in connection with that transaction.

Section 3. No Conflict of Interest if Acting for Someone Else

If a notary public acts as an agent, employee, insurer, attorney (assuming the notary public is admitted to practice law in California), escrow or lender for another person who has a direct financial or beneficial interest in a transaction, then the notary public does not have a prohibited direct financial or beneficial interest. California Government Code section 8224(b). In other words, a notary public acting as an agent for another person can perform notarial services. Or if a notary public works for a company that will receive benefits or money from a transaction, the notary public can perform notarial services in connection with that transaction. The notary public is not benefiting directly, even if the notary publicís employer receives a benefit.
 

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All rights reserved. Revised: 01/10/12.