Should Process Servers Be Recording While They Serve?

Posted by | September 13, 2013 | Process Server Standards | 7 Comments

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Record services all as you go. If there is no incident simply delete them.
  3. 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?

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7 Comments

  • AJ Koch says:

    I video and sound record all of my attempts/serves. Recording starts before I leave my vehicle and ends after I am back inside my vehicle. The only exception is inside buildings where people can expect a certain degree of privacy, or security regulations and/or the law prohibits me from doing so.

  • Ian Morgan says:

    Been in business almost half a century here in Australia and it is only with the last year or so that we have had multiple disputes claiming that service was not effected. Have just handed out to the guys ID badges with built-in camera for video and sound. Seems that a reputation built up over decades can tumble down in minutes.

  • Ron Rugen says:

    Typically, taping is legal because there is no expectation of privacy once the servee opens the door. However, courts have their own rules. I don’t know the court’s rules where the taping occurred but probably would have been better off taking a witness to verify the serve was done rather than taping. Rookie move.

  • Better check your States rules. Serving anyone in a Calif Courtroom, especially the judge can land you in jail for contempt of Court. Need to get Courts permission. Video is also not allowed in Court.

    • jo says:

      I would love to know in Canada if this is allowed or a charge on the criminal code. They say its the party’s assumption of privacy, plus if serving a Summons you are part of a two party conversation….. its not as. Though I am recording inside…. when will this catch up to today’s technology to protect people in the line of duty out there

  • David says:

    Here’s one to chew on. Officer shows up with a gag order, John Doe warrant (e.g. Wisconsin) to serve. The receiving party is not merely recording but broadcasting to the web this service of process, where it is captured by remote servers of 3rd parties, seen by associates, etc. To determine its contents, scope, etc, the served party then reads the order, warrant, etc., out loud, on camera, and onto the internet. Thoughts?

  • Libby says:

    Does anyone in CA know if video recording during service can be used as proof , if person served denies that person

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