What Hours a Process Server Can Serve You

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Nationwide, process servers work to get the legal ball rolling for both civil and criminal court cases. If you’re filing a civil claim, any named party in your case must be made aware and must receive any necessary paperwork pertinent to the case.

Although these professionals play a vital role for lawyers and the court system, it may feel unpleasant to be the intended recipient of process servers. Whether you need a process server or suspect that one might visit you, it’s important to understand what process serving entails and the laws that may impact the process.

For example, you may wonder what hours a process server can serve you legal papers, or what it means to get served. Let’s take a look.  

A process server looking at his watch

What you need to know about process servers

According to Zippia, across the U.S., there are just under 9,000 employed process servers and 71% work for private legal services companies. Process serving is a small profession, but not all process servers are equal. 

The right process server will remain within legal compliance and will use confidentiality and discretion when finding their intended recipients.

Established industry leaders like Firefly Legal employ a team of professional and qualified process servers who incorporate innovative, technological solutions and adhere to high standards in their work.   

A process server in the streets using a mobile phone

What is a process server?   

A dedicated process server is an unbiased third party over the age of 18, typically retained by a plaintiff’s attorney or sent by the courts, who delivers legal documents (such as a subpoena or a summons) to named defendants in civil court cases. This person then records and verifies completed delivery.

In some states and municipalities, like Cook County, Illinois, criminal and civil processes can be served by a local sheriff’s office. Non-law enforcement process servers are employed by legal services firms that partner with lawyers to ensure time-sensitive documents are delivered to an intended party. 

Many states also allow serving processes to be sent through certified mail.  

What does it mean to “get served”?

Legal TV shows and films often show characters, out enjoying a meal, who are blindsided by strangers who thrust papers in their face, and after their identity is verified, are told, “you’ve been served!”  If these scenes stress you out, you’re not alone. 

Thankfully, this isn’t typically how professional process servers work. Although they must ensure that they’ve completed the intended delivery, the right process servers will use as much confidentiality as the service allows.  Excellent process servers work with transparency, reliability, and adhere to legal compliance.

Getting served simply means that you’ve received the legal papers notifying you of an impending lawsuit, or issuing you a subpoena or summons. The case has already been filed, and the documents a process server delivers to you just mean you’ve been made aware. 

“You’ve been served” doesn’t have to be a phrase that strikes terror in your heart — avoiding a process server doesn’t mean the case in which you’re named won’t proceed. Getting served gives you time to take necessary legal measures to build your defense or protest civil claims.

Do process serving laws vary by state?

Yes, the process serving laws can vary from state to state. Nationwide process serving follows general guidelines, but many states add their own regulations on how, where, and when a person or organization can be served.

Nationally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) guide the process of serving in a federal civil lawsuit. However, states and even municipalities may have their own regulations in place that determine who can be served and when they can be served.

If you suspect that you may be getting served, it’s best to search the Internet to discover the specific process serving laws in the area where you live.

A process server searching for locations

Can you avoid being served?

Some people may try to avoid being served by hiding out or leaving town. Advances in technology make it virtually impossible to ditch process servers, and a high-caliber process server will employ techniques such as skip tracing to pinpoint your location. 

No matter how well you hide, the case against you may still proceed. A process server affords you the time you may need to understand the filings against you. Receiving processes may enable you to defend yourself.

According to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we’re all granted the right to due process. This means that you have the right to know about and respond to a civil case filed against you, and should have access to any pertinent legal documents. A process server’s delivery supports your right to due process. 

When a process server is allowed to deliver legal documents

As a general rule, a process server won’t come to your house or any other location after 10:00 pm or before 6:00 am. However, the rest of the day can be fair game, depending on where you’re located. This lengthy time window is in place to serve recipients who may work odd hours or have an otherwise hectic daily schedule.

Again, it’s best to look up the process serving laws and regulations of the region and state where you live to better understand what hours a process server may contact you. However, most processes can be served at any hour — a late night knock at your door from a process server is not illegal.

Here’s an example of a state-specific process serving regulations. In Illinois, the following is true for process servers:

  • A certified process server can serve people in counties with a population of less than 2,000,000. In larger populations, a sheriff or coroner serves processes
  • Processes can be delivered to anyone over the age of 13 living in your home
  • Upon process delivery, a defendant has 30 days to respond to a summons
  • A process server can deliver at any time, day or night — including weekends
  • Most process servers will attempt initial delivery during normal business hours

It may not be ideal to encounter a process server at 10:00 pm on a Saturday night, but most reputable process-serving firms will attempt to send process servers at a reasonable weekday hour first. Avoiding a process server only increases your chances of late-night weekend or holiday services. 

Who can get served?

You can be served processes in any state if you are a named party in a civil case. The laws surrounding who can legally receive a legal document delivery vary from state to state. However, here are some of the general guidelines:

  • Any named party in a civil case over the age of 18
  • Guardians of named parties who are minors
  • Designated representatives of hospitals, academic and financial institutions
  • Heads of unions

If you are being served, it’s in your best interest to accept the delivered documents rather than to avoid the experience. Although many states allow process servers to serve you at any hour, you’re likely to be served during business hours. Don’t let getting served increase your anxiety — receiving legal documentation can help you build your defense and understand the case filed against you.

To learn more about industry-leading, nationwide process services, insights into process serving, and more, visit Firefly Legal.

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