The recent unjustified arrest of a Texas process server that was later overturned once he provided his recording of the event has many of our servers wondering if they should be filming their serves as well. We thought this might be a topic a lot of servers are thinking about now, especially given the number of assaults that occur.
In this particular case a Texas process server, Stephen Hartman, was attempting to serve a judge was accused of disrupting court proceedings and arrested in May. He had been recording the events which occurred through the use of a pen camera. Thank goodness for the pen, because no less than five attorneys and two deputy sheriffs all submitted similar sworn statements that were completely inaccurate and painted a picture of a belligerent Hartman who crossed the bar – which the video shows is a far cry from the truth. Here’s the full story and the video if you want to check it out.
Even with the video evidence, Hartman JUST had his licenses reinstated. Without it though he would’ve been looking for a new career. So this raises the question: is this an isolated incident or proof that more process servers should be recording their serves?
Some question the legality of recording but in all states video recording is generally acceptable, with the exception of trespassing or when the subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in a bathroom or changing room (4th Amendment Rights).
The sticky part of this situation comes to audio recording. Some states require two-party consent, such as Massachusetts, where you can get a 15 year felony. In other states audio recording is acceptable as long as you are a party to the conversation. If you are the one serving then that shouldn’t be a problem. However, the laws around audio recording vary from state to state and we would highly recommend looking into this before pursuing any type of recording device that includes audio along with video.
Sometimes having video evidence is the only way to ensure that the true events of the situation are undisputable. There are a number of options for process servers when using video:
- Record all services and later upload them and tag them with the date and subject. This can be helpful later down the road if anyone claims they weren’t served.
- Record services all as you go. If there is no incident simply delete them.
- Record only during services you anticipate could be a trouble situation, such as in court or when the client warns you there may be a potential issue.
Today’s technology allows some relatively cheap options for storing all of the data if a server did decide to record all services and store them.
Is this something you can see yourself using down the road? Or does it seem unnecessary and a little overboard?