The misuse of a notary seal occurs too often. A notary seal is a symbol of authority just like the uniform of a soldier or a badge of a police officer, and it is supposed to be handled with the same level of responsibility. A commissioned notary is not allowed to lend his seal to anyone, lose it, or let anyone else use it under any circumstances without any exception. Whether intentional or by mistake, a notary public who allows anyone to use his seal could be liable to pay damages that may be incurred as a result of this act. The notary public can also face civil penalties or criminal charges for this misconduct.
There are two important points that need to be understood about the seal of a notary public:
- A seal should only be used by the notary whose name appears on it for official acts only. It is not to be treated like any other corporate seals or stamps that are private in character.
- It is the responsibility of the notary to protect it from being misused by anyone, be it a family member, employer, or a friend. Even if someone else paid for the seal it still supposed to be used by the notary public himself and not someone who just paid for it.
Notary publics are supposed to maintain exclusive control and custody of their seal. They should either have it on them at all times or should keep it locked in a place from where only they can retrieve it. In cases where the notary public exercised necessary caution to keep his seal safe, but still something extraordinary occurred or his seal got stolen then he will not be held liable for the damages, but only in the cases where necessary caution had been practiced and not otherwise. A notary public cannot leave his seal lying around in the office and claim that he practiced necessary caution.
Even after the tenure of four years is complete, a former notary is responsible for his seal. An old notary seal could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. Someone who is willing to falsify a notarization or someone who wants to backdate a legal document to the time before the notary seal was expired can misuse an expired seal. Therefore, a former must not leave their expired notary seals behind in their place of work when their commission expires or they switch offices.
A former notary public cannot sell his seal at an online auction or a garage sale or discard them in a place where someone might find it. Some states give clear guidance about how the expired seals should be destroyed. Destroying a seal includes defacing the print entirely. The notary publics should advise their next in kin to destroy their seal in case of their untimely death. In such cases if the seal falls into the wrong hands or anyone makes improper use of it, the family members of the notary could face legal liability or action.
Notary seals are very important and should be treated with due diligence. A notary should always know the whereabouts of his seal and should make sure that he has the soul control and custody of it. It is best to practice caution in order to avoid any claim of misconduct or carelessness.