The purpose of this post is to educate people about process service or receiving papers from a process server.
First of all; the law: 28 U.S.C. § 3004 : US Code - Section 3004: Service of process; enforcement; notice; is the Federal Law regarding the manner of service. If you are not up to date on the manner of service under Federal Rules, please go read it!
Secondly; Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501, is the Federal Law which puts the teeth or power in the hands of the Process Server; which provides in relevant part:
"Assault on Process Server
Whoever knowingly and willingly obstructs, resists or opposes any officer of the United States, or other person duly authorized, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal or judicial writ or process of any court of the United States...shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be fined not more than $300 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."
Many states have their own law, however, Indiana, the state in which I do most of my business does not have a state law. It is important to note at this point that in the absence of a state law, the Federal Law is to be enforced. I make this point because I have experienced two primary issues with this fact. Number one being that far and wide, local police departments are completely ignorant to the law that governs process servers, and number two; if they are aware of it, they routinely ignore it and refuse to enforce it. The operative language in the Federal Statue is "any court of the United States". Reading this literally would seem to mean "any court within the United States" however, we know that it means any court whose jurisdiction is part of the federal judicial branch of government. I wish all states would adopt the federal statute verbatim to give process servers some protection.
The vast majority of people I come into contact with during process service have no idea what their obligations are. Many people think that if they evade or avoid service the problem will either go away, or just be put off into the future indefinitely. Simply put; by not taking the papers the individual actually makes their legal issue worse. Point of fact is that in many cases if the process server acting on behalf of the plaintiff makes reasonable effort to serve the other party at the appropriate address, service can be considered performed or the court in jurisdiction may allow an alternate means of service, IE: posting or publishing. I have had cases where contact was made with an individual, and the identity confirmed as being the intended recipient, but they refused to accept service. I have submitted affidavits after such incident which were accepted by the court. Eventually, unless the subject party is found to be deceased, one of two things always happen: 1. court orders alternate non-personal service or 2. the person is served by other unconventional means.
I have had instances where a legal defendant not only refused to accept service by avoidance, but telephoned me with a direct threat of physical violence if I stepped foot on his property. Specifically, he left a voice mail stating that he would "beat me to death with a baseball bat if I stepped foot onto his property again..."
I would like to hear your own opinions, comments and stories.