The signature on my driver's license is a unique and identifiable smiley face :-)

I use this signature to sign all legally binding documents. A lot of the time, people reject it, and request an "actual signature". I then show them that it is the same signature as my driver's license, and they usually, (but not always,) accept it.

Is my signature legal? Or must it be my name? If it is legal, is it a bad idea?

  • 10
    I recall an anecdote about a judge who included a smiley face as part of his regular signature. This caused an appeal of a death sentence because when he signed the relevant documents he included the smiley face on that as well.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 24, 2019 at 0:17
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    This reminds me of a video I watched at some point: youtube.com/watch?v=maT-vb458eg Mar 24, 2019 at 2:13
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    Note that the root of the word "signature" is "sign", i.e. a mark used to identify. Any mark will do, the illiterate traditionally used a simple X to sign.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 24, 2019 at 7:40

3 Answers 3


Can I sign legal documents with a smiley face?

Yes, that is lawful. A person's signature does not necessarily have to include the person's name or initials. What matters is that the signature reliably and unequivocally identifies the person who produces it, which apparently you have been able to prove by showing your driver's license.

The Black's Law Dictionary (4th Edition) states in its entry for signature that "whatever mark, symbol, or device one may choose to employ as representative of himself is sufficient". It directs to the entry for sign, which likewise speaks in terms of "any mark, as upon a document, in token of knowledge, approval, acceptance or obligation". Accordingly, your signature qualifies as mark or symbol that fits these purposes.

Your history of signing other legally binding documents that way further reinforces the authenticity of your signature.

If it is legal, is it a bad idea?

It is a bad idea to the extent (if any) that (1) others can easily forge your signature (notwithstanding that forgery or identity theft might be proved circumstantially); and (2) verifying your identity may cause hassle or annoyance to you and/or third parties. But this paragraph obviously is applicable to any and all signatures, not just those which at first glance may seem to be a joke.

  • 3
    As far as I know, when you sign, that is legally binding, no matter how you sign - whether you sign with an Emoji or as "Mickey Mouse", it is binding for you. And it is legal unless you do at as part of fraud. So if you sign with an Emoji and later claim you didn't sign this, that may be fraud.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 23, 2019 at 15:26
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    What's different with this particular set of characters is that, being punctuation, they're probably much easier to forge than a normal signature, which will usually contain more unique or unusual features. Although doctors basically get away with scribbles for signatures. =)
    – jpmc26
    Mar 23, 2019 at 15:56
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    @jpmc26 well, try to get the scribble right when you don't even know what it's supposed to say ;) Mar 24, 2019 at 0:49
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    Must the signature be fixed? Wouldn't it be better to have a unique signature per document so that it becomes impossible to forge it? It would be easy to mix a cryptographic secret, with the name of the parties, the name of the document and date to generate an alphanumeric signature to be written in a document...
    – Bakuriu
    Mar 24, 2019 at 16:15
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    @Bakuriu That would be a digital signature, which has a different purpose to a traditional signature. Traditional signatures are as much about solemnization as authentication.
    – bdsl
    Mar 25, 2019 at 14:09

In contrast to the US, where I live in Europe only the written surname (first name optional) is considered a valid signature (in most cases). Some documents, like a Last Will, even need to be signed with your full name, including middle name(s).

It is possible though to use any sign as your legal signature if the sign is registered and affirmed by a notary. This exception was intended for people who aren't able to write.

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    In the US you can sign with an "X" if so inclined or unable to sign otherwise. It's quite liberal
    – A. K.
    Mar 23, 2019 at 18:49
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    In the U.S., a scribble that only theoretically contains your name is perfectly legal as a signature (source: I live in the U.S.), so I'm inclined to doubt that a smileyface or emoji or whatnot would be prohibited.
    – Vikki
    Mar 23, 2019 at 21:02
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    Welcome to the site! Thanks for trying to help but we're looking for answers that are reasonably authoritative. We already have a detailed answer that explains that, yes, this is legal, so it's not really useful to add an answer of "I'm not sure", acknowledging that the US is different from Europe, and ending with "I bet [the US is similar to Europe]". Mar 23, 2019 at 21:31
  • 4
    For your interest: The answer is correct for Germany.
    – K-HB
    Mar 23, 2019 at 22:18
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    This is not true for the Netherlands. It would be wise not to make claims over the whole of Europe, as the laws are vastly different between even neighboring countries. Mar 24, 2019 at 8:05

A contract is a meeting of the minds. If your conduct before and immediately after the signing resembles the way people act when they have a meeting of the minds, that is proof of agreement.

To invalidate a contract over a defective signature, a party would have to object timely to the signature; immediately or the first time they reasonably should have seen it.

And then, since a contract is a meeting of the minds, you must reach a meeting of the minds about what an acceptable signature is. Both of you can draw vulgar graffiti tier art of a rooster and balls for all it matters, as long as you both signed it.

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