May the notary ever refuse to provide notary services?
Yes, under certain conditions. Eventually, most notaries are faced with the issue of whether they may refuse to provide notary services when requested. Florida law actually requires notaries to refuse in some situations. In other situations, notaries either should or may refuse to notarize. Most of the situations in which notaries must refuse are set forth, and relate primarily to taking acknowledgments and administering oaths. Other prohibitions, not discussed here, may apply to less common types of notarial acts, such as attesting to photocopies.
The most common situations with statutory prohibitions occur when:
■ the signer is not present;
■ the document is incomplete or blank;
■ the signer has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated and has not been restored to capacity as a matter of record;
■ the signer does not speak English and there is no one available to translate the document into a language the signer understands. There are other precautionary reasons for which a notary should refuse to notarize even though a specific prohibition may not appear in Chapter 117. These situations occur when:
■ the document does not have a prepared notary certificate, and the signer cannot tell the notary what notarial act is required;
■ the notary believes that the signer is being coerced or does not understand the consequences of signing the document;
■ the signer appears to be drunk, sedated, or disoriented; or
■ the notary knows or suspects that the transaction is illegal, false, or deceptive. In addition to the situations described above, a notary may refuse to perform a notarization in a variety of circumstances, such as when:
■ the signer cannot pay the notary’s fee for services;
■ it is before or after the notary’s regular office hours;
■ it is a holiday;
■ the notary company is fully booked to take on new assignments;
■ the notary company is not comfortable with the request;
■ the signer is a minor;
■ the document is written in a foreign language that the notary does not understand; or
■ the notary is requested to travel to another location.