What is an unnotarized oath?

In a 1993 case, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of "unnotarized oaths." State v. Shearer, 617 So.2d (Fla. App. 5 Dist. 1993). This case may significantly affect the role of notaries in Florida because it recognized an acceptable alternative oath that may be used for verified or sworn written documents. A person using the alternative oath would not need the services of a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths.

The alternative method of making verified (or sworn) documents is set forth in section 92.525, Florida Statutes, and provides that a signed written declaration can substitute for a notarized oath if it contains the following language: "Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing [document] and that the facts stated in it are true." The written declaration must be printed or typed at the end of or immediately below the document being verified and above the signature of the person making the declaration. By signing a document with that language, a person can make a sworn written statement without having it notarized.

The Court noted that because the oath starts with the words, "Under penalties of perjury," a person who falsely signs such an oath could be convicted of perjury, just as one who signs and falsely swears to a document before a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths. For this reason, the Court concluded that the alternative oath was acceptable for the purpose of filing a motion required to be sworn to by the court rules.

The alternative oath was enacted by the Legislature in 1986 but has not gained much popularity. Perhaps, the Shearer case will cause an increased usage of "unnotarized oaths."