Tenn. AG files suit against 'notario publico'

Nick Rees Feb. 25, 2010, 3:25pm


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - A woman and her business are facing a lawsuit filed by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper for using allegedly misleading advertisements to promote the sale of "international driver's licenses."

Cooper's lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, also alleged that Mirella Garcia used the term "notario publico" without the required disclaimer. Garcia, formerly doing business as Centro de Apoyo al Immigrante in Nashville, is alleged to have violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and the Notaries Public statute.

The lawsuit stems from advertisements placed by Garcia in two Spanish language newspapers that promoted the sale of "International Driver's Licenses." These licenses are not a valid form of identification and serve no legal purpose, Cooper says.

An "International Driver's Permit," however, is a translation of a valid U.S. driver's license into different languages for foreign travel.

Only two companies - the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance - are authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue valid International Driver's Permits. The permit costs $10 and may only be provided to people who are 18 years or older and hold a valid driver's license issued by a U.S. state or territory.

"We are concerned that consumers are being deceived into believing that these so-called licenses are valid for driving and as identification," Cooper said. "They are not and those who use them are putting themselves at risk."

Centro de Apoyo, according to the ads, also claimed to be a "notario publico," or notary public, but a required disclaimer was not included. Tennessee law requires a notary public who is not licensed to practice law in the state who advertises their services to include a disclaimer in English and the language used in the ad stating "I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, AND I MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE."

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State of Tennessee
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