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Service of Process

Process Servers

Every jurisdiction specifies who may serve process. Many states take a simple approach and allow service by any person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the suit. Under federal law service of anything other than a summons, complaint, or subpoena must be made by a U.S. marshal, a deputy marshal, or someone else appointed by the court. Some states also follow this procedure and designate that such qualified service shall be by a sheriff or similar peace officer.

In some jurisdictions anyone who serves more than a specified small number of summonses a year must be licensed. Laws generally provide for fines or imprisonment of a process server who fails to obtain a required license. A court will not dismiss cases started with service by an unlicensed process server.

For the most part, courts have allowed process servers to use any means necessary to serve papers on reluctant defendants as long as no law is broken. For example, a process server can knock on the defendant's door and state that he has a package for the defendant. If the defendant opens the door, the resulting service of process is valid.

A defendant cannot avoid the service of process by refusing to accept delivery of the papers. Many cases have upheld service where the process server dropped the papers at the defendant's feet, hit the defendant in the chest with them, or even laid them on the defendant's car when he refused to get out or open the door.

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