Public document – What is it, definition and concept | 2022

A public document is a document that is created and authorized by an official or a notary public. In addition, you have to comply with all the requirements established in the law.

In other words, for it to be a public document, the author must necessarily be a notary or public official. A public official is considered when his actions are framed within the limits of his powers and follow the regulations or legal formalities.

On the other hand, the competence of the notary or official must be territorial and functional. Territorial jurisdiction refers to the fact that each notary or official can only attest and exercise within the territory for which he has been elected or appointed. For example, if he is municipal, his authority can only be exercised within the municipal territory where he was appointed or elected.

While, functional competence refers to the fact that it is only responsible for attesting to extrajudicial acts. Since, it only concerns everything related to business acts and legal facts. This means that judicial and administrative actions are out of its scope.

Additionally, if the official or notary does not comply with the legal framework, the document automatically becomes null. Since, it loses the quality of functioning as a public document.


Among the main features we find:

  • It is a document that can be consulted by anyone who needs or requires it.
  • They can only be issued or authorized by a public official.
  • This document has probative force and can be used to attest or demonstrate a material fact.
Public Document 1

Examples of public documents

Undoubtedly, this type of document must be able to be represented in written or graphic form. That is why a public document can be a letter, a contract, a plan, a photograph or even a book.

Some examples of these documents are:

  • Birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate.
  • Property documents.
  • Driver’s licenses, identification cards, voting cards and passports.
Public Document 2

Differences between a public document and a private document

The main differences that can be found will be listed below:

1. In a public document

  • The content of the document has to be drafted and created by the public official.
  • It is processed by a public official with full competence to do so.
  • It must contain the mentions or requirements required by law, not the private interests of any of the parties.
  • It must be authorized and witnessed with all legal formality by an official or notary public. This official must have the power to publicly certify the document.

2. In a private document

  • The private character is maintained despite the fact that it was publicly registered.
  • Its authorization and authenticity does not make it a public document.
  • This document is signed and drafted by each of the interested parties, without the need for a public official to participate.

Similarities Between a Public Document and a Private Document

The main similarities that can be mentioned are the following:

1. In a public document

  • The public official, in the exercise of his function and with full competence, attests to the content of the document. For that reason, the document has probative force.
  • The written or graphic document can be used to prove, confirm or justify some material fact and is prepared for this purpose.
  • The evidentiary force results because the public official attests and records that everything was done and carried out in his presence

2. In a private document

  • It can be used as evidence for any legal process.
  • Like the public document, it is used to prove, confirm or justify a material fact.
  • It works like a written test because it comes to have authenticity.

Advantages and disadvantages of the public document

Of course, the main advantage of this document is that by itself it can serve as proof because the official or notary attests to it. In addition, it is made with all the demands and requirements of law.

However, the disadvantage of this document is that it can lose strength due to the incompetence of the official and this takes away its authenticity.

In conclusion, it can be stated that a public document is created and authorized by a notary or public official. Said document has authenticity, this authenticity is conferred by the official who acts in accordance with the law and because he has full competence.

Additionally, authenticity means that the document stands on its own and leaves no room for doubt about its validity.

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