Chapter 5: How Can I Get Something Notarized Without Proper ID?

Did you know when you’re arrested in California for a DUI the arresting officer takes your Driver’s License and returns it to the DMV?  That’s right.  Even though you’re innocent until proven guilty in a court of law your Driver’s License is taken away.   In exchange you will find a pink piece of paper in your property bag at the jail which is your Temporary Driver’s License for the next 30 days.   Can you use this Temporary License as your ID to get a document notarized?  NO.  See Chapter 2: Proper ID for Notarizing a Document in California.   Did you know you can get a California ID in addition to your Driver’s License thru the California DMV?   The number is the same as your Driver’s License but cannot be used as a Driver’s License.  For the purposes of identification for a notary, cashing a check or even at the airport the state issued ID can be your savior.   The next form of acceptable identification for the purposes of a notary is a Passport.   If you don’t have a Passport prior to losing your Driver’s License the hurdle to climb gets even bigger.  You need proper identification to apply for a Passport.   Getting a DUI is a HUGE nightmare if you don’t have a Passport or California ID.  Fortunately there’s a light at the end of the tunnel if you need something notarized and you don’t have proper ID.  Again, the Secretary of State has made provisions for every scenario when a document has to be notarized.

The Credible Witness or Credible Witnesses are your only saving grace when you don’t have proper identification in California.  So what’s a Credible Witness?   From the California Notary Public Handbook:

“The identity of the signer can be established by the oath of a single credible witness whom the notary public personally knows.  (Civil Code section 1185(b)(1)).  The notary public must establish the identity of the credible witness by the presentation of paper identification documents. (see Chapter 2)  Under oath, the credible witness must swear or affirm that each of the following is true (Civil Code section 1185(b)(1)(A)(i)-(v):

  1. The individual appearing before the notary public as the signer of the document is the person named in the document;
  2. The credible witness personally knows the signer;
  3. The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification;
  4. The signer does not possess any of the identification documents authorized by law to establish the signer’s identity;
  5. The credible witness does not have a financial interest and is not named in the document signed.”

What happens if you don’t know anyone that can act as a Credible Witness that personally knows a Notary Public?   No worries.  The Secretary of State has built-in a way to get this notary completed by allowing for TWO Credible Witnesses.    The identity of the signer is established by the oaths of two people who can act as Credible Witnesses.   The Credible Witnesses must show their proper identification (Driver’s License, Passport, government issued ID, same as the identification required for notarizing a document) and under oath they must swear under penalty of perjury the same 5 things stated above.  A Credible Witness is someone who you’ve known long enough that can swear to your identity.   The Credible Witnesses will sign the Notary Public Journal which establishes the identification used for a signer of a document notarized.

The lesson in this chapter is that you can get any document notarized if you have proper identification or credible witnesses to establish your identity.   As far as taking a commercial flight or cashing a check without your Driver’s License?   I can’t help you.   I strongly suggest that everyone reading this chapter go online to http://dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm#idcard    To apply for an ID you will need to do the following:

  1. Visit a DMV office  (go online and make an appointment)
  2. Complete an original DL 44 form
  3. Give a thumb print
  4. Have your picture taken
  5. Provide your Social Security number
  6. Verify your date of birth
  7. Pay the application fee  (No fee for senior citizens)
  8. Make sure the address is correct on the application because your ID will be mailed to this address in 60 days

If your wallet is stolen, you misplace your Driver’s License or you’re arrested for a DUI in California,  a California ID will be your saving grace the next time you need to travel, cash a check or have a document notarizied.

Chapter 2: Proper ID for Notarizing a Document in California

One of the first questions I ask someone requesting a document to be notarized is “do you have a proper ID?”  In California the signer must identify themselves by using “Satisfactory Evidence.”  Paper identification documents can be any of the following:

  1. Driver’s License or ID card issued by the California DMV
  2. Other California-approved ID card consisting of any one of the following, provided that it also contains a photograph, description of the person, signature of the person and an identifying number,
  3. A United States Passport
  4. A Passport issued by a foreign government, provided that it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,
  5. Driver’s License issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses,
  6. An ID card issued by another state,
  7. U.S. Military ID card with the required photograph, description of the person, signature of the person and identifying number.
  8. An inmate ID card issued by the CA Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody,
  9. An employee ID card issued by an agency or office of the State of California or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California.

What if the signer has a driver’s license but it expired?   A notary in California can accept an expired Driver’s License as long as it was issued less than 5 years ago.   What happens if the signer doesn’t have any of the acceptable forms of ID listed above?  The Secretary of State always has the answer to solve every problem when it comes to notarizing a document in California.  The signers identity can be established by Credible Witnesses.   Based on Civil Code section 1185(b)(1), a Credible Witness that knows the notary public and the signer can swear under oath the identity of the signer.   If you don’t have a Credible Witness that knows a Notary Public you can still get this document notarized with TWO Credible Witnesses that can swear under oath and penalty of perjury the identity of the signer.   Once the identity of the signer has been established the notary can perform their duties notarizing the document.

The key is to avoid being in this position of struggling to get a document notarized because you don’t have the proper identification.

  • If your driver’s license is about to expire get it renewed ASAP.  The California DMV will not forward mail. If your address changed since your last renewal of your license and you failed to notify the DMV don’t expect a renewal notice.   Go to the DMV website:      http://www.dmv.ca.gov/online/onlinesvcs.htm
  • Get a California Identification Card.  Why?  If you ever lose your driver’s license a California ID may be your only hope for getting a document notarized, getting on an airplane, completing an application for a passport and what if you get arrested for a DUI?  The arresting officer takes your driver’s license in California.   I can go on and on why having a California ID is a lifesaver when you need a government issued ID.
  • Keep names and phone numbers handy of friends that can be “Credible Witnesses” should you ever lose your driver’s license, passport or other document acceptable for establishing your identity for a notary public.