CHARACTER, CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS AND PRIOR SANCTIONS
Under the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), the Pennsylvania Department of State (Department) may deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend, reprimand or impose a condition on a commission as notary public for an act or omission which demonstrates that the individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence or reliability to act as a notary public. Such acts or omissions include:
- Failure to comply with RULONA.
- A fraudulent, dishonest or deceitful misstatement or omission in the application for a commission as a notary public submitted to the Department.
- Conviction of or acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition by the applicant or notary public for a felony or an offense involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit.
- A finding against or admission of liability by the applicant or notary public in a legal proceeding or disciplinary action based on the fraud, dishonesty or deceit of the applicant or notary public.
- Failure by a notary public to discharge a duty required of a notary public, whether by this chapter, by regulation of the Department or by Federal or State law.
- Use of false or misleading advertising or representation by a notary public representing that the notary public has a duty, right or privilege that the notary public does not have.
- Violation by a notary public of a regulation of the Department regarding a notary public.
- Denial, refusal to renew, revocation, suspension or conditioning of a notary public commission in another state.
- Failure of a notary public to maintain a bond under section 321(d) (relating to appointment and commission as notary public; qualifications; no immunity or benefit).
While there is no longer a statutory five-year bar to appointment for applicants who have been convicted of or pled guilty or nolo contendere to a felony or a lesser offense incompatible with the duties of a notary public, any person who has been convicted of or accepted Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for any felony offense or any misdemeanor offense involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit within five years preceding the date of application for appointment is presumed ineligible for appointment as a notary public. The presumption of ineligibility for appointment may be rebutted in extraordinary circumstances by a showing of clear and convincing evidence of the applicant’s full rehabilitation. The Department has enumerated a list of offenses it has determined involve fraud, dishonesty or deceit in its proposed regulations. Where crimes involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit are more than five years preceding the date of application for appointment, the conviction and related facts may still be considered in determining whether the applicant has the requisite honesty, integrity, competence or reliability to act as a notary public.
The Department may impose an administrative penalty of up to $1,000 on a notary public for each act or omission which constitutes a violation of RULONA or on any person who performs a notarial act without being properly appointed and commissioned under RULONA.
All disciplinary proceedings of the Department will take place under the Administrative Agency Law and final actions of the Department are subject to judicial review.
Certain criminal penalties are applicable for individuals who hold themselves out as a notary public or as a notarial officer or to perform a notarial act, without being appointed and commissioned under RULONA. Falsely pretending to be a notary public or a notarial officer and performing any action in furtherance of such false pretense shall subject the person to the penalties set forth in 18 Pa.C.S. § 4913 (relating to impersonating a notary public or a holder of a professional or occupational license), a misdemeanor offense. The use of an official stamp by a person who is not a notary public named on the stamp also constitutes a violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4913. Any person otherwise violating RULONA or a regulation of the Department commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $1,000.