By Victoria Anton—If you’re a Notary in a state other than Florida, there are still some good general tips here. Scenario: You and your significant other are both Florida Notaries. One of you performs marriage solemnizations and have several scheduled over the weekend. After performing your first solemnization, you inadvertently misplace your notary seal. You go ahead and perform the next solemnization using your significant other’s seal, sign their name and go on with the rest of your day.

What are the potential problems in this scenario?

Let’s look at it since we have several issues going on in this situation.

  1. The losing/misplacement of seal.

    Florida Statute 117.05(c) The notary public official seal and the certificate of notary public commission are the exclusive property of the notary public and must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public. The seal and certificate of commission must not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, regardless of whether the employer paid for the seal or for the commission.

    (d) A notary public whose official seal is lost, stolen, or believed to be in the possession of another person shall immediately notify the Department of State or the Governor in writing.

  2. Unlawful possession and use of the notary seal. Fraud and Forgery.

    Florida Statute 117.05(e) Any person who unlawfully possesses a notary public official seal or any papers or copies relating to notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

As you can see both notaries may be in major trouble here. Both failed to keep their seals secured. One committed forgery and fraud on a recordable instrument (marriage license). The next problem that arises out of this scenario is that the couple is not legally married. The clerk will now have to issue an amended marriage license and the couple now has to “get married” for real. Trust me on this next one, the court clerk will advise and provide the proper forms to the offended party to file a complaint with the state. The clerk may also suggest that the couple now has grounds to come after BOTH notaries bonds. The notary whose seal was “borrowed” is now in a position that they have to also file a complaint with the state in attempts to protect themselves since we are required by law to report it to the State.

This is a sad situation for both notaries because one will most likely resign their commission (if the state will allow the resignation) or the state will suspend the notary or the commission will be revoked by the state; thereby losing their primary livelihood of loan closings and performing marriage solemnizations.

Your E&O Insurance will not cover you on this one folks!!!