What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?

The role of the process server is essential in many legal proceedings. Process servers ensure that court papers are served in a timely and correct manner.

Many types of legal situations require the use of a process server. For example, process servers are often used to begin proceedings for a divorce or a car accident lawsuit. 

A good process server is aware of their state’s specific statutes, which will often dictate a time frame for service and other details. They should also be aware of which actions they can and cannot take while trying to serve papers. 

Knowing the standard for process server behavior helps to ensure all parties are behaving in accordance with the law. 

What is a Process Server Allowed to Do?

When a process server agrees to serve papers, they’re usually provided with personal information about the person they are serving. This information might include a photograph and a list of places at which the individual is likely to be found. 

A process server can visit a residence, a place of employment, and any other places where the person they are serving spends time. 

Servers are allowed to wait outside these places and attempt to serve the individual while they are entering or exiting the property.

Servers cannot trespass on private property, but they are allowed to approach a residence and knock on the door or ring the doorbell. 

If a workplace allows public access, they are allowed to enter freely and serve papers while the individual is working. An employer cannot force a process server to leave a workplace that allows public access. 

If a workplace does not allow public access, employers are permitted to request that your employer or a receptionist allow them access to you. However, an employer is not obligated to allow entry to a process server. 

If a process server cannot make contact, a final option is to leave papers with another adult at the residence or send the papers in the mail. However, these methods might only work if the individual served accepts them. If they claim they never received the papers, court proceedings cannot move forward.  

What Actions Are Off Limits?

An easy guideline for process server behavior is that if it’s illegal, it’s off limits.

Behaviors that are not allowed include:

  • Breaking and entering
  • Trespassing
  • Use of physical force
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Going through mail
  • Impersonation 

Nearly anyone can become a process server. Process servers don’t have any sort of legal authority. They can’t compel the person who is being served to do anything. 

While many process servers are registered, they have no special certification, no identification badge beyond a business card, and they are permitted no special exceptions to the law. 

If you believe a process server has violated the law in an attempt to serve papers, you have two options. If they are affiliated with a company, you can report them. You can also attempt to take them to civil court. However, this can be challenging. 

If you show up in civil court with a complaint against a process server and you were attempting to evade service, it might not look good to the judge. 

Bringing a civil suit against a process server should be reserved for times in which the law has unequivocally been broken, like if a server has broken into your home or attempted to assault you.

If a process server is attempting to serve you papers, the best option is to simply accept them. While evading service may temporarily delay legal proceedings, eventually, a case will move forward. Participating in the legal process is the best option for everyone involved.