Service of process is a linchpin of the entire US judicial system. As such, it’s important to understand how it works and what to expect. Here’s what you need to know about how service of process works.
What Triggers Process Service?
Service of process comes into play under specific circumstances. Usually, this means that someone has filed a formal complaint against someone else, claiming a physical or financial injury, or violating a specific law or laws. Once this complaint gets filed with the courts, it’s time to move on to the next step – notifying the defendant of the complaint lodged against them.
You’ve Been Served
Because our legal system strives to be fair and just, informing a defendant that a complaint has been filed against them is a crucial step. This is, of course, the part of the process that people are most familiar with. Documents detailing that complaint need to be delivered to the defendant in a way that is verifiable; this is where process servers are hired to physically serve these documents to the defendant before the case against them can proceed.
Service of process is usually depicted on television or movies in a questionable manner; a shady defendant goes to great lengths to avoid being served by a process server who relies on subterfuge to do their job, for instance. This is, of course, wildly exaggerated; process servers are highly professional and have an exhaustive, almost encyclopedic knowledge as to what’s permitted and what’s not when it comes to serving a defendant papers.
Not Just for Defendants
Service of process isn’t exclusively used to alert defendants that there is a complaint lodged against them. In many instances, you may be served papers to request your appearance or response at a court proceeding. Most commonly this will be to have a deposition taken, pursuant to a subpoena, to produce certain documents related to a court case, or even to testify in open court.
Order in the Court
Service of process is serious business. Hiring a process server is an integral step in pursuing a case. Meanwhile, not responding to service of process is a bad idea, as this can lead to you losing your case, contempt-of-court, hefty fines, or even jail time.
Whichever way you look at it, process service is an integral part of any legal action, whether in state or federal court.