A citizen’s right to due process means that they must be informed of their involvement in any legal proceedings and made aware of any complaint against them. This is accomplished by process service, a procedure in which a person is provided with the writ, summons, complaint, or subpoena related to their case.
Process servers are hired in order to complete this service, but what happens if a process server is unable to serve an individual, or the person is deliberately trying to evade service? When this happens, it’s usually because the person is trying to avoid being served. This can happen if the individual wrongly believes that if they can’t be formally summoned to court or subpoenaed, they can avoid the legal process altogether.
Can someone truly avoid being served indefinitely?
While an evasive recipient does complicate and temporarily delay a case, it’s never a permanent solution. Even if an individual does manage to completely avoid being served, the judge will eventually allow for alternative methods of service, or conclude that the due diligence for notification has been fulfilled and allow the proceedings to continue.
In most cases, however, experienced process servers have the skills, training, and qualifications to track down and complete service—even under difficult circumstances. Here are a few ways a process server may go above and beyond to locate a hard-to-find individual.
Start with the basics
Most individuals are not difficult to locate, especially if the client has done their best to provide the process server with all the relevant information. This information includes the recipient’s name and known aliases, work and home addresses, all available phone numbers, and basic identifying information such as a recent photo, physical description, and make and model of their vehicle if relevant.
When possible, a client can provide even more information, such as the person’s route to work, use of public transportation, addresses of friends and family, and frequently visited locations such as a gym or restaurant. Even knowing where a person gets their morning coffee on their way to work can be helpful in tracking down an evasive person.
Where to complete service
In-person service is still considered the gold standard, and most people are served at their home or place of work. If a process server cannot effectuate service on the first attempt, they might return at another time of day, or even wait for the person to return home from work. Process servers will also complete service at a workplace, and they’re allowed to leave papers with the manager or boss if they cannot reach the individual personally.
If these standard methods of completing service don’t work, a process server may use public records to see if an individual has changed addresses. They may even look up the addresses of friends and family members in case the individual is staying with someone else in order to avoid being served.
Similarly, searching court records allows a process server to find out if the person has any upcoming court dates, in which case they can serve them as they leave a hearing or other court proceeding. They can also identify the person’s lawyer and serve them as they leave their attorney’s office.
Thinking outside the box
Sometimes the usual steps are not enough to complete process service or the client is unable to provide the necessary information. And when a person is determined to avoid being served, they might even move without providing a forwarding address, change their appearance, or switch jobs every few months.
When this happens, process servers get especially creative. They may use information posted on social media to find someone at a concert or other public event, or even wait at the airport for someone to return from the vacation they posted about on Facebook or Instagram.
Alternate service methods
If a process server makes several documented attempts at completing service without success, they may advise their client to request permission for alternative service, in which the documents are served via the mail or through public notice. And while service by mail is very common, service by social media and email is slowly gaining traction throughout the United States. At DGR Legal, we were the first process service company to successfully complete service through LinkedIn and Instagram after receiving approval from the judge.
But whether service is completed in-person, electronically, or through a notice in the newspaper, hiring a knowledgeable process server familiar with the laws governing process service is essential—especially since contested or illegitimate service can delay or even overturn the previous rulings associated with your case. Contact us today to meet our friendly and responsive team, and rest assured in the knowledge that we explore every avenue to successfully complete service.