What does a Process Server Do? Demystifying the Role of a Process Server

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Many stakeholders, such as legal services companies, private investigators, process server companies, and attorneys, often turn to a local process server to locate and deliver documents to individuals involved in legal actions. These actions might include notices to witness, summons, and subpoenas. While many who interact within the legal realm are deeply familiar with the expected roles and duties of a process server, there are many misconceptions about what process serving entails. 

Join us as we demystify the legal process server job and how they interact with the people on the other side of the door.

A Process Server Job Exists to Ruin your Day/Life: FALSE

The primary reason a process server job exists is to ensure that the due process of law is upheld in the United States. It’s true – while being served court documents doesn’t deliver the same level of excitement of seeing your Amazon next-day delivery arrive at your doorstep, a process server upholds a responsibility to deliver important information designed to protect a person’s rights.  

Service of due process is a privilege set forth by the Constitution. Specified in the fifth and sixth amendments within the Constitution, all U.S. citizens hold the right to be informed of being summoned to court. Without these rules, a company or person could sue you and hope that you don’t appear in court to defend yourself.

A process server has a difficult task of ensuring papers are served properly. If they aren’t, the court is not able to rule on a case relating to an individual if they were not legally made aware of it. If service is determined to be inadequate, the entire case could be thrown out. Therefore, it is essential that a local process server is aware of the state laws pertaining to the correct way of legally serving a defendant.

A Process Server Job is Inherently Dangerous: FALSE

Process servers aren’t bounty hunters, but as legislation is being adopted and presented across the country to make assaulting a process server a felony, it’s clear that safety is a major concern within the profession.

While there may be some reluctant recipients or emotional encounters, the process server’s job isn’t inherently a dangerous one but does include some level of risk. There has been an array of false portrayals on film that portray process servers chasing down “bad” people and defending themselves from dangerous or defiant characters. 

There are quite a number of ways in which process servers can ensure that they are safe while on the job, such as:

  • Immersing into all relevant information about the defendant/person to be served
  • Conducting themselves as professionally and politely as possible
  • Keeping car and cell phone within accessibility
  • Depending on state laws, meeting them in a public place, such as work
  • Keeping interactions within daylight hours
  • Use common sense
  • When possible, go with a partner
  • During COVID-19, wearing a mask and keeping adequate distance whenever feasible

Process Servers Often Go Undercover: FALSE

Again, TV has made some false and exaggerated depictions of process servers, showcasing them as cheeky, disguised paper-pushers. They’re generally not going to disguise themselves as a UPS delivery person or a lawn maintenance person in order to complete a serve. The circumstances would be highly uncommon for a process server to dress up and pretend they are someone else. 

Generally speaking, the first attempt to deliver papers should be conducted by a process server with respect and in a normal approach. Additional tactics should only be employed for extremely evasive individuals or outlier situations. In fact, it’s illegal in most jurisdictions to dress up in a disguise as a process server. Generally speaking, the more official a process server appears, the less likely the recipient is to evade service.

Beyond professionalism, there could be some dangers associated with wearing a disguise to serve papers. As a disguise or costume can hinder a process server’s awareness and ability to do their job, becoming a chief safety issue. And if the job is done efficiently and professionally, there should be little to no reason to even consider a disguise.

Process Servers Must Hand Documents to People Being Served: FALSE 

While some federal rules allow for service of process to be delivered by mail, many states require physical delivery of the documents to the defendant. However, despite popular belief, an individual delivering court documents is not required to directly place the papers into the hand of the person they are serving. 

Papers are generally considered served when the server explains the purpose of their visit and leaves the documentation in an accessible and visible place. There are no aggressive pronouncements like, “You’ve been served!” It’s standard practice to simply mention the general nature of the documents and leave them nearby if the person refuses to take them in hand. Each state has its own regulations on how and when different paperwork should be delivered, but much of the skill required in process serving is knowing what the rules are.  

A process server job is a respected, albeit challenging one. Here’s what they won’t do:

  • Break and enter
  • Portray law enforcement
  • Force the door open
  • Leave papers with a minor

At Tag Process Servers, we’ve been working with some of the most respected debt collection law firms since 1999 and we’re continuing to grow and thrive across the United States. If you’d like more information in demystifying the legal process server job and how they interact with the people on the other side of the door, just give us a call!

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