Of the 7.125 billion people living on Earth, no two have the exact same fingerprint. Even birth twins don’t posses matching fingerprints, which is probably why some places are requiring notaries to take their clients’ fingerprints when performing certain notarial acts. While this isn’t a universal law by any means, certain states require fingerprinting for certain acts.
Placing your finger in a pad of ink and then pressing it against a sheet of paper may sound simple enough, but there’s a great deal of power in this task. Even with all of the advanced forms of ID cards today, fingerprints are still one of the most secure methods of verifiable identification. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for instance, moved some of 83 million fingerprints into a massive data storage unit known as the Next Generation Identification (NGI). By creating a universal database of fingerprints, law enforcement agencies across the nation can find information on criminals and suspects in seconds – a task that will ultimately deter crime.
The reasoning behind the FBI’s decision to capture and store fingerprints is clear: it helps them and other law enforcement agencies catch criminals. But what role does fingerprinting play in notarial acts? In most states, the only action a person is required to take when seeking the services of a public notary is to show the notary a verifiable form of identification (passport, driver’s license, government-issued ID card, etc.), pay the notary’s fee, and sign the document in the appropriate fields. Some states, however, require notaries to obtain the signer’s fingerprint in addition to these items.
California was one of the first states to pass a law requiring the notaries to obtain a fingerprint of the signer. The Sunshine State passes this law in 1996, and it remains in effect to this day. It’s important to note that not all notarial acts conducted in California require a fingerprint. Only those related to estate transactions, such as deed of trust, grant and deed, are required.
The purpose of obtaining a signer’s fingerprint is to prevent fraud by verifying the signer’s identify. Driver’s licenses and signatures are easily forged, but it’s incredibly difficult to forge a fingerprint, especially when it’s taken in front of an unbiased third-party like a notary public. If a notarial act requires a signature, the signer typically placed his or her thumb on an ink pad and then places it on the notary’s journal. This journal is safeguarded by the notary and should not be given to anyone else, which further increases the security of the notarial act.
But not everyone is thrilled with the idea of states requiring clients to submit a fingerprint when having a notarial act performed. Being that fingerprints are unique to each individual, it brings up privacy concerns. With that said, fingerprinting is still a relatively new process in the notarial field, so many states haven’t jumped on board yet.