This is a guest post by Amy Weiss. Amy is originally from Richmond, Virginia and is a second year law student at the University of Richmond. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2007 where she studied history and anthropology.
This Session at the Virginia General Assembly State Senator John Edwards sponsored SB827 (there is a companion bill on the House side sponsored by Del. Kathy Byron), which would allow the use of public notaries to notarize documents via video or audio technology. This would not require the notary to be in the presence of the signer as long as the signer’s identity was supported by sufficient evidence. In addition, the bill would relax the requirements for the commission of electronic notaries, also called e-Notaries.
A common law notary public is authorized by the local jurisdiction. A notary’s main function is to serve as a non-biased witness to the signing of certain official documents. The notary’s job is to make sure that all required formalities are followed. The most important part of the notary’s job is to affirm the identity of the person coming before him. It is important for notaries to meticulously review this information and follow all legal procedures. If a notary fails to observe all required procedures, he can be sued.
Electronic notarization is relatively new in Virginia. It has only been permitted here since 2008. A small minority of other states including Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania also permit electronic notarization. In Virginia, to be registered as an electronic or “e-Notary,” you must first apply and receive a commission from the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Current Virginia law also requires the physical production of identification to the notary in person.
SB827 would certainly relax some of the notarization laws for electronic notarization. It has raised some concern. In particular, some critics fear the bill would make it easier for people to commit fraud by making fake identification documents which the notary would not scrutinize in public. It will be interesting to see how the law develops to accommodate the new technology of electronic notarization in the future.