Process servers are people who provide legal documents to defendants. They are often tasked with difficult jobs that require a certain level of discretion. For example, they might need to serve papers on an individual who doesn’t want to be found or knows how to avoid service, for whatever reason.
This can be frustrating and lead them into grey areas where they’ve gone beyond their legal boundaries to better accomplish the job at hand. To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s important for servers to know what is within their scope and what isn’t so they don’t risk liability if something goes wrong.
They play a crucial role in the legal system by providing defendants with their court summonses or subpoenas to appear at trial or other proceedings. However, even though they’re important players in the world of law, not all aspects of serving court documents fall under their jurisdiction.
We have always talked about what process servers can do. In this blog, we will include a list of the things that they cannot do. Please note that process servers are not professional attorneys or law enforcement officials. They can’t:
1. Serve Orders of Protection
According to state statute for Oklahoma, process servers only have the power to serve civil processes, which does not include orders of protection issued by a judge (Oklahoma Statute 12-2113).
For an order of protection to be served, it must be done so either personally or by someone who is not a party to that action. A person serving the order cannot be compensated for their service unless that individual is also licensed as a process server.
2. Arrest Someone in a Cab
There are process servers in Oklahoma who do in fact carry sheriff commissions, but a server is not a law enforcement officer. If a process server attempts to arrest someone they will be charged with assault and battery or false imprisonment if they have no legal right to make the arrest. The process server could even face criminal charges if any sort of physical contact occurs between them and the person served.
3. Serve Papers Through Facebook Messenger or Email
In Oklahoma, the summon can only be served by personal delivery or constructive delivery when it comes to serving papers. Constructive deliveries include mailing papers via certified mail, which does not involve an actual physical exchange of the document from the server to the recipient. The process server will not be allowed to use any electronic messaging platforms, including Facebook Messenger or email, in order to serve.
4. Serve Papers While on Duty
They are often working while they prepare service paperwork. However, they are still bound by rules regarding their conduct while conducting professional duties. One of these rules means that process servers cannot abuse alcohol or drugs while on duty and must report for work fully sober if asked to do so. They may also only work within the county where the process is registered unless they receive authorization from the court to process outside of their jurisdiction.
5. Take Prohibited Substances into a Courthouse
Many process servers will carry their paperwork with them to file with the courts. Most servers know to avoid taking coffee, soda, candy, or other stimulants into the courthouse because anything that might affect their judgment can be considered a prohibited substance. A server who is caught carrying stimulants into the courthouse may be asked by security to dispose of them before entering.
6. Wear Prohibited Attire
Although they are allowed to wear casual clothing when off duty, they cannot do so during work hours unless it is approved by both the court and their employer.
Process service agents cannot adopt controversial attire while working for process service firms – instead, they must follow an accepted dress code for professionalism. Any server wearing controversial attire or clothes branded with process service logos could have court authority revoked.
7. Violate Local Laws
Court process servers are not allowed to violate any local laws while working for process serving firms. It’s their responsibility to ensure that they represent process services in a professional manner, and following local laws is an important part.
8. Process Servers Cannot Collect Money From The Defendant
This may sound obvious but it is surprising how many process server companies claim they “collect money” when in fact all they did was hand the defendant papers. If you file or win an enforcement-type case (wage garnishments, bank levies, evicting tenants, etc) you need someone who can follow your judgment with a server that will “enforce” the order. When hiring process servers ask them how they do their serving so you are sure what you are getting.
9. They Cannot Search For People Who Have Fled Prosecution
If the person being served has fled the prosecution, they are not allowed to go looking for them. They have to wait at the most recent known address until the defendant shows up.
The only exceptions are when there is an active arrest warrant or bench warrant issued by a judge or magistrate, in which case most servers will transport the defendant back to court. After that, it is just a basic duty like any other server.
10. Process Servers Cannot Take Self-Executed Services Of Papers
If the defendant takes the process server’s papers and executes them on his or her own, they cannot take that service. A process server can only take a self-executed service if the defendant requests assistance in doing so or signs off on it. Otherwise, just getting served is enough for them to complete their job.
11. Process Servers Can’t Keep Copies Of Service To Themselves
They have to keep copies of services they do but only because the copies are sent directly to whoever hired them through mail or email. The process server cannot keep any copies for themselves because serving entails being an agent of the process to the court.
12. They Can’t Refuse To Serve Anyone
They can refuse to serve anyone for any reason, but there are consequences if they do so. A process server cannot serve anyone because of personal prejudices or preferences nor should process servers charge more for the process serving specific people based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or age.
If a process server does refuse to serve someone because of prejudicial reasons, that process server could be guilty of failing to perform mandatory public services under California Penal Code Section 1214-35.
The list of what process servers cannot do is not exhaustive, but it does provide an overview. You can find other limitations in the laws that govern their work and you should always consult with a lawyer before proceeding to take any action on behalf of your client.
They are usually hired by attorneys or individuals who have been wronged legally for services rendered. As such, they are required to follow strict guidelines set forth by law as well as make sure all actions are taken to benefit their clients’ best interests at heart, read more.