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Service of Process

Where Process May Be Served

Legal papers may have to be served within the geographical reach of the jurisdiction, or authority, of the court. If the service itself is the basis for the court's jurisdiction over the defendant, then the service usually must be made within the state. For lower-level courts, service may have to be made within the county where the court is located. Trial courts of general jurisdiction usually permit service anywhere within the state. Service of process for an action in a federal district court may be made anywhere within the state where the court sits or, for some parties, any place in the United States that is not more than one hundred miles from the courthouse.

A variety of statutes permit state courts to exercise authority over persons not physically present within the state. These are called LONG-ARM STATUTES. They specify factors, other than the defendant's physical presence within the state, that provide sufficient justification for the court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendant, such as doing business within the state or having an automobile accident within the state. When one of these factors exists, the prospective defendant can be served with legal process outside the state because the service itself is not the basis of the court's jurisdiction.

Substituted or constructive methods of service may be used on a defendant who comes within the long-arm jurisdiction of the state. For example, many states permit a plaintiff to serve an out-of-state resident who was involved in a traffic accident in the state by serving legal process on the attorney general of the defendant's state and then sending copies to the defendant at his residence. The statute makes the attorney general the agent for the service of process on out-of-state drivers. Such a statute is based on the theory that a nonresident driver has consented to this method of service by using the highways and facilities within the state.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Secretary to SHAsService of Process - Methods Of Service, Where Process May Be Served, Who Must Be Served, Process Servers - When Papers Can Be Served