Notary Public is not a Notario Publico
In Mexico, and many other countries in Latin America, a “notario publico“, the Spanish translation for “notary public“, refers to a legal professional, licensed to practice law. In Colorado, a notary public is a public official commissioned by the Secretary of State to notarize (authenticate) signatures on legal documents. The primary role of the notary is to deter fraud.
No Legal Advice
A Colorado notary is not required to have a law degree or legal training as an attorney or paralegal. Since May 2010, notaries must complete a Colorado Notary Training course and pass the Colorado Notary exam. A Colorado Notary may have acquired legal knowledge by reading, attending legal courses, job experience or life experience. But, the notary may not offer legal advice, specific to a customer’s situation, unless the notary is also licensed to practice law in Colorado.
Some unethical notaries who speak Spanish may advertise their services as a notario or notario publico, to attract business from customers who are not fluent in English. The customer may incorrectly assume that a Colorado notary public is the same as a notario publico in their native country.
The most frequent area for deceptive advertising by these notaries is for immigration consulting. If the notary exceeds their authority as defined by notary statutes, they may be engaged in the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL).
To prevent deception and confusion, Colorado law CRS 12-55-110.3 makes it illegal for a notary to advertise their services as a notario or notario publico, unless the notary is licensed to practice law in Colorado. While the emphasis is on Spanish speaking notaries, the law also applies to notaries advertising in other foreign languages.
When advertising in a foreign language, including signs, the following notice must be included in English and the foreign language:
I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN THE STATE OF COLORADO AND I MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE.
The notary must also post a list of the fees allowed by law for notary services, written in English and the foreign language.
Notaries that speak Spanish or other foreign languages can provide a useful service to assist customers. But, they must not advertise as a notario or provide legal advice unless they are licensed to practice law.