Can a Notary Decline or Refuse to Provide Service?

Colorado Notary LawCan a Notary Decline or Refuse to Provide Service?

In Colorado, a notary may have his/her commission revoked for failing to exercise the powers and duties of a notary public.  The notary should not discriminate, decline or refuse a lawful notary request.  Notaries are commissioned to serve all of the public.

But, there may be a legitimate reason for a notary to decline or refuse to provide service.  Some of these reasons are:

Lack of Identification

1.  If the customer cannot provide satisfactory evidence of identification, as defined by Colorado law.

Lack of Awareness

2.  If a customer lacks adequate mental capacity, due to a mental impairment, such as a stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s, brain injury, brain disease, or low IQ, or has been found to be mentally incompetent by a medical professional or court ruling.

A notary should use reasonable care to assess the customer’s awareness, mental capacity and basic understanding of the document.  The customer should be alert, able to carry on a conversation, provide cohesive answers to questions, and demonstrate that they understand the purpose of the document. A drowsy person may need rest or awakening before signing.

Under Influence of Drugs, Alcohol, Emotions

3.  If a customer appears to be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, strong emotions, or stress, to an extent that impairs their awareness, judgment, reasoning or understanding.

Willingness

4.  If it appears that a customer is not signing willingly due to pressure, threat, coercion, or duress.  If other people are present and trying to influence the signer, the notary may ask the other people to leave until the customer can make a decision without undue influence.

Foreign Language

5.  If the customer speaks a foreign language and is unable to communicate directly with the notary, without using a translator, the notary may decline or refer the customer to a notary that speaks the foreign language.

Blank Spaces

6.  If the document has blank spaces, missing pages, or is incomplete.

Unavailable

7.  If a request to notarize is for a time when the notary is closed for business or unavailable, or the requested signing location is outside of a mobile notary’s service area.  A mobile notary may also decline due to rain, snow, ice, blizzard, hazard, unsafe, unhealthy or unsanitary conditions, risk of crime, unrestrained pets, etc.

Special Knowledge or Authorization Needed

8.  If the request is for an advanced, unusual or complicated transaction that requires special knowledge or training that the notary does not have. Or, the law or workplace policy does not authorize the notary to notarize a particular type of document. Some notary acts are lawful in one state, but unlawful in another state.

Unable to Pay

9.  If the customer is unwilling or unable to pay the notary fee or travel fee.

Illegal, Fraudulent or Unauthorized Act

10.  If the notary knows, or has a reasonable suspicion that can be articulated, that the notarial act, document or the associated transaction is illegal, dishonest, deceptive, false, improper, fraudulent, or unauthorized.

[See Notary Code of Professional Responsibility, Section IV-E-2, Improper Transaction.]

If the notary knows or has a reasonable belief that the notarial act or the associated transaction is unlawful.

[See Model Notary Act, Section 5-6(b)(1), Refusal to Notarize]

Illegal acts include acts against public policy, that are in violation of, or promote a breach of,  federal, state or local laws or regulations, or case law from court rulings, or tend to harm the state or its citizens.

Unconstitutional

11.  In some states, notaries take an oath or affirmation to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and of their state of residence.

Interfering with, Bribing or Influencing a Public Official

12.  If the customer makes threats, assaults, or attempts to obstruct, deceive, bribe, influence or coerce the notary.

Disqualifying Interest

13.  If the notary has a disqualifying interest in the transaction, or a significant conflict of interest that would compromise the impartiality of the notary.  The value of the money, goods, benefits or services received by the notary should not exceed compensation for the value of the services rendered by the notary.

State laws may allow a public official to receive a minimal amount as a thank you, such as some food or a beverage.  The total dollar value limits allowed per transaction and per year are defined in state “gift ban” laws.

Disruptive Customer

14.  Most customers are polite and cooperative when seeking notary services.  Some customers are rude, insulting, disrespectful, angry, loud, disruptive, abusive, condescending, uncooperative, or unreasonable.  Some businesses establish policies for dealing with disruptive customers.  A judge in court would likely give a warning to a disruptive party, and then issue a contempt of court charge if the disruptive behavior continues.  The US Post Office has refused service to disruptive customers who refused to follow rules of conduct.

Health, Safety and Security Issues

15.  Notaries should not put themselves at risk in situations involving health, safety and security.  Hazardous situations should be resolved, remedied or eliminated before proceeding safely.

Non-Customers

16.  Notaries should not decline or refuse service or charge different fees because a person is not a client or customer of a business.  The public should not be required to buy goods or services or open an account as a prerequisite to receiving notary service.  Employers should not impose company rules on notary employees that contradict notary laws.

Model Notary Act

17.  The Model Notary Act, published by the National Notary Association (NNA), Section 5-6, Refusal to Notarize, states:

A notary shall not refuse to perform a notarial act based on a person’s race, advanced age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a non-client or non-customer of the notary’s employer.

Colorado Civil Rights Anti-Discrimination Laws

18.  The Colorado Civil Rights Division enforces the Colorado Anti-Discrimination laws.  A Colorado business serving the public must not discriminate based on: race, color, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation (including transgender status), marital status, and retaliation for engaging in protected activity (opposing a discriminatory practice or participating in a public accommodations discrimination proceeding).

Illegal discrimination includes providing unequal terms and conditions, discriminatory advertising, denial of service, unequal service, retaliation and harassment, when based on a protected class.

See Colorado Civil Rights brochure.
See public accommodations anti-discrimination laws for all states.

The notary should serve all of the public, in a fair, honest and unbiased manner, when a lawful notary request is received, or attempt to help the customer find another notary that can provide the requested service.

A helpful notary may receive a positive customer review from a thankful customer for providing good customer service.

No Legal Advice:  Any blog posts, comments or other information found here is not to be used or considered as legal advice.  Consult with a licensed, competent attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

Visit our website for Colorado Springs Mobile Notary services or Colorado Notary Training classes.

Can a Notary Decline or Refuse to Provide Service?
  • Can a Notary Decline or Refuse to Provide Service?
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2 Comments

  1. 24/7 Notary Los Angeles November 28, 2016
    • Jerry Lucas November 28, 2016

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