Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and witnessed a scene where someone is visited by an official who says “You’ve been served” and gets handed a court summons? This is actually a real-life occurrence and it is known as process serving.
What is Process Serving?
Process serving which also referred to as ‘service of process’ is essentially the serving or delivery of legal documents to individuals. These documents are usually related to court matters such as subpoenas, warrants, summons, writs and any legal document mandated by the legal system or court. A process server is someone who carries out this function.
While it may sound like a simple task, process serving can be intricate and affected by various inhibitions from reluctant and hostile defendants to persons who may be on the run. Process serving is required by the law to notify individuals about upcoming court appearances.
What does a process server do?
In order to deliver the documents to the defendants, a process server must then locate the individual. If someone is expecting to be served a court summons, they may make themselves unavailable at their home address. Because this is a likely occurrence the process server must prepare for such an outcome use a technique known as ‘skip tracing’.
Processing serving also requires a lot of travelling, social interactions and thorough investigations. It also requires a working knowledge about the laws, court and legal system in order to legally and properly serve notifications. If a process server does not abide by the required rules and regulations of serving or the process delivery then the court matter may be affected or dissolved much to the dismay of the other parties involved. This may then have repercussions for the process server and the whole court process and filing procedures may have to be started over again.
What is Skip Tracing?
Skip Tracing is an industry term that is used to describe the process of locating a person. The term “skip” refers to the person who may have “skipped town” and the term “tracing” refers to locating or tracking the individual who has “skipped town.” While it first came about as a method to find fugitives, debtors, witnesses and defendants, it can also be used to find missing persons or even a long lost relative or friend who lost touch with their loved ones.
Initially the skip tracer will ask for as many details as possible such as the skip’s full name, date of birth, last known address, the addresses of known associates or family members, email, social media handles and any information that may be relevant to the case.
Skip Tracing is also carried out by utilizing the following public and private resources and records:
- Phone number databases
- Credit reports
- Credit card applications
- Job applications
- Criminal background checks
- Loan applications
- Utility bills
- Public tax information
- Public records databases
- Courthouse records
- Department store loyalty cards
- Air travel records
- Driver’s license/vehicle registration departments
Searching these databases can help to track down the individuals last known address, their affiliates and people who may have interacted with them. It is a common method used by debt collectors, private investigators, bounty hunters, real estate investors, repossession agents, journalists, insurance companies and lawyers to name a few.
How are legal documents delivered?
Once the process server has the address of the individual who has to be notified, they will go to meet them face to face and hand over the documents. If the person refuses to take the document from the process server, they can simply set it down at the defendant’s feet.
If a defendant is being very elusive, the process server will visit the location several times until the documents can be handed over.
In some cases, if the defendant is not available the process server is then allowed to leave the next available person or ‘sub-serve’. They can sub-serve by handing over the legal documents to someone in the same household or business as the defendant as long as the available person is eighteen years of age or older.
After successful process delivery, the process server is required by law to provide the court or the serving party a notarized proof that the papers have been served. At the end of the service, the process server is expected to return to the court and complete an Affidavit of Service or Proof of Service form.
What happens if the process server cannot deliver?
If the process server has hit a dead end with tracking down the individual or the person continues to be elusive then a few outcomes may occur.
Firstly, if the person is not available after several attempts and visits then the person who ordered the notification has to find another means of serving the individual such as via a newspaper ad.
If someone is knowingly avoiding being served or refusing then the plaintiff can take even more legal action against the person
If a process server delivers the documents against protocol (use of force, breaking and entering, trespassing etc.) then the court matter may be dissolved.
Why is process serving important?
Process Serving is an integral part of the legal system. If you file a case against someone it is not recommended that you personally serve your documents or handle that step in the legal procedure. Process servers are professionally trained and qualified to handle these tasks. They also have access to tools, resources and methods that are not available to the average civilian. Process serving is professional and there are a lot of steps and protocols involved to ensure that the task is done legally and accounted for.
If you are in need of such a service or you need to locate someone you know contact the professionals at RCI International Process Service & Investigations at (410) 693-8992 or via email at [email protected]