If you've watched a private detective show you've probably heard the famous, "You've been served!" While the job may have its own good and bad aspects, process service is performed by strictly defined individuals. Rules of civil and criminal procedures are clear in most states when it comes to properly serving a summons, subpoena, or warrant. To understand these rules, one must define and understand the differences between civil and criminal process serving..
Types of Process
Process, in the legal sense, is either civil or criminal.
- A criminal process notification starts with an indictment or information from a court, prosecutor, or a grand jury. It is an arrest warrant. This process is represented by a warrant to arrest and is carried out or "executed" by a commissioned law enforcement officer of some type.
- A civil process is also issued by a court. This is a civil case of some type so, the action has been ordered by a court involved in a civil dispute (e.g. lawsuits, divorce, child custody).
Who Performs Process Service
One would be hard pressed to Identify a circumstance in which the individual bringing the suit can personally serve the process. Those circumstances may be out there, but they would be very rare to nonexistent. In fact, states include a section in every civil action mentioned in the civil code the meticulous way process service must be accomplished. Doing this incorrectly can result in procedural problems such as case dismissal. While the petitioner may be able to refile the action, time is money and you can bet the petitioner or plaintiff in some jurisdictions, is going to pay for it.
- Petitioner's attorney may process service by U.S. Mail, certified and documented
- Petitioner's attorney may use a professional process service
- Pro Se litigants (those who may bring suit on there own as in Small Claims Court), also depend on the clerk of the court to send service, usually by Certified U.S. Mail or a sheriff's deputy who handles such functions as an officer of the court
So the do-it-yourself litigant is still dependent on the court, whether magistrate, circuit, superior, etc. Proper process service is so important that in spite of proper service, most legal answers to accusations of a plaintiff or petitioner will include an alleged "improper service" statement. Contact a company, such as In Focus Investigations, for more information about how legal filings are handled and how they could affect you.