Notary publics are local government officials that assist in certifying documents for legal procedures. Because the requirements for becoming a notary are minimal, it's possible to get a document notarized at a bank, post office or even a grocery store.
The main job responsibility of a notary public is witnessing the signing of legal documents. When a document is signed in front of a notary, they also verify the ID of the signer using an official government ID, such as a driver's license or passport. After signing, the notary affixes their stamp to the document to prove that they have witnessed both the signing and ID in person. Each notary has their ID affixed to the stamp, so that it can be checked by authorities, if needed. In some cases, witnesses are required during the signing of a document. In this situation, the notary verifies the ID of any witnesses as well.
Another task of a notary public is administering oaths. Oaths are used during legal trials as statements by witnesses. In some cases, a witness who is not able to testify in person will turn a statement in to a notary and then swear an oath or affirmation. Once the oath is notarized, it can be submitted into a legal case. If the witness is later found out to have lied on their oath, they can be held accountable for perjury and subject to court fines and penalties. Some notaries, such as those in South Carolina, are able to perform marriage ceremonies. In these cases, a marriage certificate in that state must first be issued for all parties involved before the notary can perform an official ceremony.
Public notaries are required to keep records of notary activities in a logbook, so good record keeping is essential. As notarizations are filed, a matching entry is made into a notary logbook. These books are subject to open records request as well as records retention schedules. One of the requirements for most states of persons wishing to have something notarized is that they be of sound mental state and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A successful notary public should be able to judge an applicant's state of mind and well-being.
The exact requirements for being a notary vary from state to state. However, there are a few requirements common to most. For one, the notary must be of legal age, which is 18 years of age. They must be a United States citizen, not currently incarcerated, and without any prior felony convictions. In addition, they must be mentally competent, which in legal terms, means that they shouldn't be held to a court order that declares otherwise.