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 Notary Tips
 Credible Witnesses - the basics
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Posted - 05/18/2010 :  12:47:14 AM  Show Profile  Visit jbelmont's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Sometime in your notary career, you will be asked to notarize a person who lacks an ID. In such a case, you can use credible witnesses to identify the signer. Laws effecting credible witnesses
vary from state to state, so please consult your state's notary division or notary law primer for state specific information.

In California and many other states, a notary can use:
(1) credible witness who is known to the notary, and who also knows the signer. This creates a chain of relationships suitable for a notarization. How well should the notary know the credible identifying witness? The notary should have met this person many times and have heard their full name stated by a third party many times. You should know the person in conjunction with others. My arbitrary rule is that you should have met the person and heard their full name eight times to "know" them.
(2) credible witnesses can be used if you don't know the witnesses.

The notary must check the identification of the credible witness(es) and record their ID information and signature in the notary journal. Having a telephone number recorded is very prudent as well. Then, the credible witness(es) must swear under oath before the notary to the full name of the signer.

Common uses.
If you do signings in jails, the inmates never have any photo-identification. They only have a wristband which you can not use as notary identification. Relatives or the attorney of the inmate may have the inmate's ID and bring it. But, if they don't, you have to rely on credible witnesses.

Elderly people often have expired identification, so for them, you will commonly need credible witnesses.

People who changed their name, but didn't change the name on their identification are candidates for using credible witnesses.

Get a thumbprint of the signer if you require credible witnesses. There should be no doubt as to the identify of the signer, and there is no way to forge a thumbprint.

Many notaries and former notaries such as myself think that credible witnesses are not a reliable way at all to identify a signer. The witnesses typically don't even know the signers full name. They know him as Chuck or Chucky only, and don't even know that his official name is Charles. Half the time the witnesses don't really know the signer, but have, "seen them around".

State specific information on Credible Witnesses
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