Is it a good idea to place a signer thumbprint impression in a notary journal?

Most notary journals contain a space for placing an impression of the signer's thumbprint, but is taking a thumbprint a good idea?

In jurisdictions where notaries are permitted to take thumbprints, the answer is a resounding yes. There is no better proof that a signer appeared before you than having his thumbprint in your journal.

Some states even require thumbprints for certain transactions.

If you are in a state that does not require thumbprints, however, consult your manual to make sure that this practice is authorized. For example, in Florida, the laws do not address the matter of taking thumbprints, but the governor's office has advised that this is voluntary on the signer's part. In fact, the governor's office advises that a notary should not refuse a request for a notarization service just because the signer refuses to provide a thumbprint.

California law requires notaries to obtain a thumbprint from a signer for any document concerning real property.

Notaries in Illinois are required to take a signer's right thumbprint when notarizing the Document of Conveyance pertaining to transferring title to residential real estate property located within Cook County, Illinois.

Texas law (Chapter 503, Subtitle A., Section 503.001 of the Business & Commerce Code) states that a person may not capture a biometric identifier of an individual without (1) informing him or her; (2) receiving the individual's consent; and (3) destroying the biometric identifier not later than the first anniversary of the date collecting it. In the state of Texas, any violation of this law could result in a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per violation.

If you want to take thumbprints in your notary journal, you might consider purchasing an inkless fingerprint pad. These pads do not leave a black ink stain on the skin. Rather, the residue can easily be wiped off. The AAN sells inkless pads which offer over 1,000 crisp and clear impressions on any type of paper.

-- Robert T. Koehler, Florida Notary Educator, is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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