South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond and Governor Nikki Haley passed a bill this year which introduced several new changes to the notary profession. This is the first time South Carolina has updated its notary laws in years, which is why it’s important for every notary public to familiarize themselves with the changes.
Senate Bill 356 makes several major changes to South Carolina’s notary profession. According to media reports, input from both notary publics and citizens prompted Hammond to proceed with the bill. Among the changes includes a revision which allows clients to add their signature by mark when the client is unable to complete a signature. This is critical for people with physical disabilities, as they may otherwise not be able to sign.
The bill also lays out criminal penalties for fraudulent notarial acts. There have been numerous cases in which notaries have knowingly committed fraud. Seemingly harmless acts, such as backdating a notarized document, for instance, can have sever consequences for both the notary and the signer. South Carolina lawmakers hope this new bill will deter future instances of such illegal activities.
On a positive note, Senate Bill 356 also increases the maximum fee for which notary publics commissioned in South Carolina are allowed to charge. Under this new law, notary publics can charge up to $5 per notarial act (non mobile act). All states have a maximum amount for which notaries are allowed to charge. If a notary public charges more than this amount, he or she could be subject to losing their commission. Mobile notaries, however, are typically allowed to charge more than the “standard” maximum amount set forth by their respective state, which makes sense considering the additional time and resources it takes to meet a client.
Some of the other key points of South Carolina’s Bill 356 includes the following:
- Statutory definitions regarding the different notarial acts.
- Clear prohibitions against certain types of notarial acts, such as notarizing blank documents and documents from which the notary public may benefit.
- Notary publics commissioned in South Carolina must be able to fluently read and write English.
- Guidelines for foreign documents.
Hammond said the following in a press statement regarding Senate Bill 356:
“Notaries public hold an important position of responsibility. The key function of a notary is to protect citizens against fraudulent activity. The new law will provide much needed clarity for notaries on their duties and responsibilities. The new law answers the many questions we receive from notaries public and members of the public about these duties. Hopefully these changes will not only provide much needed guidance for notaries public, but also greater protection for the public.”
These are pretty substantial changes made to South Carolina’s notary profession.