Process Server Tips

Process Servers: How To Deal With Police

By January 4, 2016 November 28th, 2017 7 Comments
process servers and police

process servers and policeAs a process server, there is the chance a subject will say they are going to call the police. Here are several potential situations you may run into and how to deal with them.

This information is originally from the NYSPPSA Conference and was presented by Bernard Hughes.

Situation: The subject says you’re trespassing and you need to leave the property.

Your response should be: 

Leave.  Don’t stay on the property for another second, as once the individual tells you that you are trespassing on private property you can face criminal charges if it’s someone’s private residence. Businesses can be a grey area, but you are better off leaving the property and eliminating any potential liability.

Situation: The subject says you need to leave the property and they are going to call the police.

Your response should be:

Leave the property but make sure to wait for the police officer to arrive. If you don’t stay, the police officer only gets one side of the story and you may need to deal with the situation later. Getting to speak with the officer as the situation occurs will only help you so you can explain why you were at the premises. It may in fact help you, as some officers will be encouraged to assist you in getting the individual served.

If you have been waiting for some time and the police officer doesn’t show, you may want to call the station to check that the officer is not on their way before you leave. Sometimes people say they are going to call and don’t follow through, but on the chance they have you should double check.

If you don’t feel safe waiting near the location of the subject, you can call the local station and explain the situation. You can ask if the responding officer can meet you at another location.

Situation: Your interaction with the subject turns into a physical altercation.

Your response should be:

Defend yourself only to the extent necessary while trying to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. As soon as you can, call the local police.

There have been situations where the police will not file charges. If you truly believe that the situation is grievous enough to warrant charges, you can request for them to call a supervisor. If they refuse or say their supervisor is not available, you can request a copy of the report. Once you have the report you can go to the District Attorney or town attorney for the area where the incident occurred to pursue charges.


Above all in any of these situations, always be professional. Yelling, being rude or escalating the situation will never help your case.

UPDATE 1/18/2016: In response to the feedback of other process services and the experiences of DGR’s own process servers, it should be noted that when individuals say they are going to call the police, this can actually be a good thing for the server. As Randy Mucha from Firefly Legal says “I’m happy to have an uncooperative defendant call the police so they can then verify the caller’s identity and witness the service. Makes for a solid affidavit”.

What has been your experience dealing with police as a process server? Do you have any tips for other servers?

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • rd furman process says:

    very good advise – I realize many areas are different but I have never encountered a complaint where police were called that they 1. did not respond or 2. would not take any action.

  • Brian Zavodnick says:

    I had a situation right here in town. We were attempting to serve an evading defendant at his home at about 8 PM, he came to the front window and even identified himself to me, then proceeded to call the police (no problem, as it often helps) Having the defendant identified, I announced the documents and dropped them at the front door and left the area. I then waited at the top of the street for the police to arrive. Two squad cars come flying down the street, see me with my flashers on and hop out of there cars. They then proceeded to question me as to why I was harassing there resident and how dare I bother him after 8 PM. That it was to late to be knocking on doors in their town. I again explained the reason I was there and that we had already attempted several other times of day, but they would not hear it and ORDERED me not to return at that hour of the day. I then followed them back to the address and heard them confirm his identity and that he had retrieved the documents from the step. Some people attempt to use the police as there shield. That hour of the day, are you kidding me, can’t serve most residential addresses during “working hours”.

  • Mike Wood says:

    If they can tell me that I’m trespassing, then I can probably tell them that they are served. Drop serve them and immediately leave. Of course there are situations where that might not be practical. But in most cases, I would drop serve them and let them say rude things to me as I left (while watching my back to see where they were, at all times). And if I had reason to think they might have actually called the police, I would IMMEDIATELY call the police to verify it or leave my contact info if there was some question. I would leave no doubt as to who I was and what had occurred.

  • Habiff says:

    Not all persons seeking access to property are trespassers. The law recognizes the rights of persons given express permission to be on the property (“invitees”) and persons having implied permission to be on the property (“licensees”) not to be treated as trespassers; for example, a meter reader on the property to read the meter. A police officer or process server seeking to execute a warrant or court summons, is a licensee. The distinction is whether one is soliciting, proselytizing or is an implied designee to be on the property as a business, legal or social function. That said, a “licensee” process server assumes all liability of injury and harm while on the property of another and is solely responsible for care.
    Rowland v. Christian
    “Generally speaking a trespasser is a person who enters or remains upon land of another without a privilege to do so; a licensee is a person like a social guest who is not an invitee and who is privileged to enter or remain upon the land by virtue of the possessor’s consent, and an invitee is a business visitor who is invited or permitted to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings between them.” (Oettinger v. Stewart, 24 Cal.2d 133, 136 [148 P.2d 19, 156 A.L.R. 1221].)
    Lastly, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution prohibit federal and state governments from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Therefore, process servers are “serving” the recipient with legal notice of their constitutional right to due process and fair procedure of the law.
    Frater Habiff

  • I understand every state is a bit different. For those in Washington, your good.
    RCW 9A.52.090
    Criminal trespass—Defenses.
    In any prosecution under RCW 9A.52.070 and 9A.52.080, it is a defense that:
    (1) A building involved in an offense under RCW 9A.52.070 was abandoned; or
    (2) The premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or
    (3) The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain; or
    (4) The actor was attempting to serve legal process which includes any document required or allowed to be served upon persons or property, by any statute, rule, ordinance, regulation, or court order, excluding delivery by the mails of the United States. This defense applies only if the actor did not enter into a private residence or other building not open to the public and the entry onto the premises was reasonable and necessary for service of the legal process.
    [2011 c 336 § 374; 1986 c 219 § 2; 1975 1st ex.s. c 260 § 9A.52.090.]

  • Richard Ross says:

    In Mississippi, every jurisdiction is different. In my most recent situation, the target’s boyfriend stated “I;m calling the Police if you don’t leave”, I said let me help you I speed dialed the local Precinct, identified myself, and asked for a supervisor. When the supervisor arrived, I showed my credentials, and the paperwork I was trying to serve on Targets girlfriend”. Supervisor asked whether or not I had confirmed the target was present; I said yes upon my arrival, targets boyfriend shouted “(targets name) hide, he’s here to serve you”. Supervisor explained to targets boyfriend the criminal consequences for impeding the service of Process in Mississippi, targets boyfriend called the target outside, and she was served.

  • Jeff Aronson says:

    I serve mainly in the St. Louis, Missouri area. I am licensed through the St. Louis City Sheriff’s Dept. We have been told through our training course that we may enter onto any property where we believe the subject of our attempted service may be residing. This includes fenced areas and even looking into windows. We are not to enter into the house unless invited. Other than that, we are allowed to legally trespass.
    I agree that USUALLY it will be a good ending for the Process Server when Police are called because the person you are trying to serve will have to come out and talk to them as well. The biggest problem is that MOST Police Officers are not trained in the laws and rules of Civil Process and are not aware of your rights as a Process Server. I have had them take the side of the person your trying to serve or making up their own rules on the spot. In those cases, I talk to their superiors as soon as possible, and if that gets me nowhere, I call the St. Louis Sheriff’s Dept. and they will contact those officer’s superiors. In one case, after speaking with the Supervisor, he held a special meeting with his officers to get them all on the same page in dealing with incidents involving service of process. Another time, I had about 8 or 9 officers respond. They made fun of me took the side of the property owner, disarmed me, put my gun in one bag, bullets in another bag, and clip in a 3rd bag. They told me to leave and not come back. After a discussion with their Supervisor everything changed. The woman was running a hair salon that sold alcoholic beverages. The Supervisor chewed out his officers, then he and 2 detectives escorted me to the salon, witnessed the service, hassled the woman by asking for her current liquor license and told me to call them if I ever had an issue in that municipality again.

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