Making a mistake during a notarization can have serious financial and legal consequences for California Notaries — and deliberately breaking the law leads to even more severe penalties. This guide will help familiarize Notaries with the Golden State’s Notary laws and penalties for misconduct.
Penalties For Notary Misconduct In California
If a Notary commits misconduct, penalties under California law fall into four main categories:
Disciplinary action by the Secretary of State: The Secretary of State can refuse to appoint any person as a Notary, or suspend or revoke a Notary’s commission for many violations listed under Government Code 8214.1.
Civil Penalties: In addition to disciplinary action taken against a Notary’s commission, Government Code 8214.15 authorizes the Secretary of State to fine a California Notary up to $750 for negligent misconduct. If the Notary willfully committed misconduct, the maximum fine increases to $1,500 (see “Negligence Vs. Willful Misconduct” below).
Criminal penalties: If the Notary’s misconduct constitutes a misdemeanor or felony under the law, the Notary may be sentenced to jail time or other criminal penalties in addition to any disciplinary action and civil penalties.
Lawsuits: If the Notary’s misconduct harmed a private individual, the Notary may be sued in a civil lawsuit.
It’s important to understand that misconduct can result in a Notary facing multiple penalties. For example, if a Notary was found negligent for failing to properly complete and seal an acknowledgment on a real estate document, the Secretary of State could impose a civil penalty, and suspend or revoke the Notary’s commission as well if deemed appropriate. On top of that, if the Notary’s error resulted in a financial loss for the signer, the signer could also sue the Notary to recover any damages resulting from the faulty notarization.