Online Video Notaries?

They are allowed in some states, but only a small minority; should courts in other states authorize online notarization on an emergency basis?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

According to notarize.com, online video notarization is allowed in Virginia, Montana, Texas, Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Vermont—but still not in most states.

I doubt most state legislatures would want to spend time focusing on this right now, but it seems to me that state courts may well have inherent powers to accept documents notarized online (for those filings that require notarization), at least for the duration of the coronavirus epidemic. Has there been any move towards that?

UPDATE: Just to be clear, here's how (according to notarize.com) the process works:

[1.] Upload a Document: Notarize any document by uploading it to your computer, iPhone, or Android phone. You can access documents from your email, by taking a picture on your phone, or through cloud storage services like Dropbox.

[2.] Prove Your Identity: Notarize uses a patent-pending forensic analysis to verify government issued photo IDs and passports. Take a picture of your government issued ID, answer a few questions, and Notarize will confirm your identity in seconds.

[3.] Connect with a Live Notary Agent: Connect with a licensed electronic notary public over live video to sign your document. The Notarize agent will confirm your identity, witness your signature and assist you throughout the process.

[4.] Save and share your notarized documents: Now you can download or share your notarized document. Completed document will be stored in your safe and secure Notarize account, if you ever need it in the future.

NEXT: Truckers Are Rushing Supplies to Empty Store Shelves During Coronavirus Crisis. Will Regulators Get Out of the Way?

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  1. online notarization kinda defeats the purpose of having a document notarized

    1. Exactly. If the notary isn’t present to see you sign, what exactly are they attesting to when they “notarize” a document?

    2. Sorry, should have made it clear — this is online video notarization; I’ve added an UPDATE discussing the process.

  2. While only a few states seem to explicitly permit the notarization process as described, do other states explicitly prohibit this, or have wording from the paper age that, while not anticipating a digital revolution, negates online notarization
    After all, a notary can see, examine, witness attest, affix, and many other action verbs, EMR lack of proximity.

  3. We have online notarization procedures in Texas, but we have also adopted an analog to the federal practice permitting unsworn declarations under penalty of perjury. This address is the COVID-19 issues more efficiently.

  4. For Jurats and verififications. Video notarization does help with acknowledgements.

  5. Another issue, which I am personally going through at the moment, is whether service of process on the Secretary of State still has to be done personally.

    1. captcrisis: Personally in the sense that someone actually has to hand it to the Secretary of State? Or just that someone has to personally hand it to someone at the Secretary of State’s office?

      1. Someone has to go in person to the office, which is usually pretty crowded (this is Albany, New York). They haven’t issued any special guidelines.

  6. I did a memo on this as a 1st year. If I recall, there’s a lot of room for “electronic” signatures and notaries, and yet even with electronic notarizing a lot of state laws required you to be in the physical presence of the notary. Can state courts sidestep that requirement for their own notarization purposes? I don’t know.

  7. ILLINOIS – Seems it was on the front burner recently in IL and recent events may expedite action on the December 2019 Notarization Task Force on Best Practices & Verification Standards to Implement Electronic Notarization’s (catch my breath after reading name) recommendation for Illinois to adopt electronic and remote notaries. See http://www.ilga.gov/reports/ReportsSubmitted/709RSGAEmail1514RSGAAttachENotary%20Report%20Approved.pdf

    “Final Recommendation
    The members of the E-Notary Task Force recognizes that electronic notarization is not only feasible in Illinois, but that it is already having an impact due to Illinois’ acceptance of electronically notarized documents from other states. Due to the growing acceptance of electronic notarization, this technology will continue to play a larger role in the local and global landscape of e-commerce.

    Electronic notarization offers unique fraud prevention aspects that do not exist under current law. On the frontend, multi-factor authentication will provide additional layers of security to verify that the signer is who they say they are. On the backend, audio-video communication will not only deter fraudulent acts by capturing a record of the transaction, but will serve as evidence against those who attempt fraudulent schemes.

    In the interest of better serving businesses and consumers in Illinois, it is the recommendation of the task force that the Illinois General Assembly amend the Illinois Notary Public Act to authorize the Secretary of State to issue electronic notarial commissions to qualified applicants and that electronic notarizations be accepted and recognized statewide.

    The Secretary of State’s office continually looks for ways to streamline services for the citizens of Illinois and welcomes the opportunity to utilize this emerging technology as another tool for notaries public to more effectively perform their duties.”

  8. Am I the only one worried about the privacy implications of vast online databases filled with the personal documents of random people?

    Lawsuits are one thing, but a lot of documents needing to be notarized are (and should be) private. Eyebrows would be raised (at a minimum) if a notary kept a photocopy of every document she notarized — not a record of it, but a copy of it. Yet that is exactly what is happening here….

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