Although many people are less familiar with white collar crime than they are with non-economic based offenses, most have at least heard of embezzlement and extortion. Very few people on the other hand, are aware that notary misconduct can also qualify as a white collar crime and that defendants who are convicted face serious penalties. With so much at stake, it is critical for those who have been accused of notary misconduct to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help them formulate a defense.
The stamp of approval of a notary public is required to authenticate a wide variety of legal documents. For this reason, notary publics are strictly regulated by Florida law and are prohibited from engaging in certain acts, including:
- Signing certificates using a facsimile signature stamp unless they have a physical disability and have previously submitted a copy of the facsimile to the Department of State;
- Affixing their signature to a blank form and delivering it to someone else with the intent that it be used as an official affidavit;
- Administering an oath to someone that they know has been ruled mentally incapacitated when the oath requires the exercise of a right that has been removed;
- Notarizing the signature of a person who seems mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document;
- Taking the acknowledgement of someone who does not speak English, unless the instrument is translated;
- Changing anything in a written instrument after it has been signed;
- Amending a notarial certificate after the notarization is already complete;
- Notarizing a signature if the person is not in their presence at the time of notarization;
- Notarizing the signature of a spouse, child, or parent;
- Notarizing a signature when they have a financial interest in the underlying transaction; and
- Notarizing a document that is incomplete or blank.
A notary who fails to comply with these rules faces serious penalties. For instance, a notary public who notarized a signature of a person who was not present at the time of notarization can be found guilty of a civil infraction, which is punishable by a $5,000 fine. Furthermore, a notary cannot argue that he or she did not have the intent to defraud anyone in order to escape liability. However, if a prosecutor can establish that a notary did have fraudulent intent when he or she committed one of the prohibited acts, the person can be charged with a third degree felony, which is punishable by a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. A person can also be charged with a third degree felony if he or she:
- Obtains or uses a notary public commission in a name other than their own legal name; and
- Falsely acknowledges a signature.
Even possessing a notary public official seal or papers relating to notarial acts can be charged as a second degree misdemeanor if the person is not a qualified notary.
Contact an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney
To speak with a white collar crime attorney in Miami, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling 305-670-9919 or by initiating a live chat with a dedicated member of our legal team. We are eager to help you with your case.