California Government Code section 8214.1(b) provides that the Secretary of State may refuse to appoint any person as notary public or may revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew the commission of any notary public upon a number of grounds, one of which includes conviction of a felony of a nature incompatible with the duties of a notary public. According to the Guidelines, this includes convictions of offenses involving moral turpitude. The guidelines provide a non-exhaustive listing of forty-one crimes listed as meeting the standard.
According to the Guidelines, the disciplinary action for a felony conviction is permanent denial of the application and permanent revocation of the commission for a notary public. So, yes, quite a severe consequence. However, the story doesn’t end there.
Section 20802 of Chapter 8 of Division 7 of Title 2 of the California Code of Regulations provides that the Secretary of State shall consider the Guidelines when reaching a decision on disciplinary action. However, the Regulations also provide that deviation from the guidelines is appropriate where “the Secretary of State, in his or her sole discretion determines that the facts of the particular case warrant such deviation (e.g. nature and severity of the act, the presence of mitigating factors, or evidentiary problems).”
Factors in mitigation include the following:
- Evidence that respondent accepted and complied with a suggested resolution of the Secretary of State, or other agency, to a consumer complaint.
- Evidence of voluntary participation in a program relating to the applicable laws and regulations and the duties and responsibilities of a notary public.
- Evidence of resolution of consumer complaints with a subsequent change in business practice.
- Respondent fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by the Secretary of State, other law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and/or injured parties.
- Evidence satisfactory to the Secretary of State of personal and professional rehabilitation.
- Recognition by the respondent of his or her wrongdoing and demonstration of corrective action to prevent recurrence.
- Passage of considerable time since the violation(s) with no evidence or indication of recurrence or evidence or indication of any other misconduct.
So, when finding oneself in a situation where permanent denial or revocation is possible, it is important to work with attorneys that are aware of the exceptions. Not only that, but those that know what you will need to make sure to pursue the exceptions that apply in your situation and successfully argue on behalf of their relevance before the Secretary of State decides your fate.