What is a Process Server?

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Process servers play an essential role in the American court system. Thousands of people in the US are employed as process servers, contributing to the legal right to due process. 

A process server is a neutral, third-party individual whose job is to transfer legal documents to receiving parties. 

To understand the role of a process server, it is helpful to also know about due process and the service of process. These important legal concepts play an important role in the day-to-day work of a process server.

Process server engaged in a discussion regarding a legal matter, with papers spread out on the desk.

Understanding Due Process & the Service of Process

Due process is the constitutional right awarded to everyone in the US, which is that no one can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without the proper legal process being followed. 

Service of process, then, is the act of delivering legal documentation directly to defendants, witnesses, plaintiffs, and other parties involved in litigation. 

The essential role of process servers

Process servers do more than just ensure that due process is upheld. The job of a process server accomplishes so much more. 

  1. Process servers provide legal notice to defendants. Officially notifying defendants that they are being sued is the first step toward legal resolution.
  2. The service of process sets the legal timeline in motion. At the point that a server delivers a defendant’s legal documents, the countdown begins for that defendant to respond by a set deadline.
  3. Process servers prevent default judgments. Defendants who are not properly served may be unaware of the case against them and therefore fail to respond. These default judgments can lead to a complicated and expensive legal battle for everyone involved.
Guidelines for becoming a process server

Can anyone be a process server? 

As of 2021, there were close to 9000 process servers in the US. Each state sets its own rules for who can be a process server and what their job looks like.

In most states, process servers must: 

  • be at least 18 years old
  • adhere to any state licensing guidelines 
  • not have a felony conviction on their record

State requirements for process servers

According to information gathered by the National Association of Professional Process Servers, each state has its own guidelines for who can be a process server and what kind of licensing is required. Not all states require licensing. 

  • Alaska requires process servers to obtain licensing, pass a written application, and post a $15,000 surety bond.
  • In Arizona, process servers must be 21 years old, have lived in the state for at least one year, and pass a written exam to qualify for licensing.
  • California offers licensing to those serving more than 10 papers in a year. Residency for at least one year is required, and applicants must post a $2,000 bond or a cash deposit. No exam is needed.
  • In Florida, some counties require the sheriff’s appointment for process servers. Licensed servers must be 18 or older, Florida residents, pass an exam, and post a $5,000 surety bond.
  • Illinois doesn’t mandate licensing for process servers, but licensed Private Detectives can serve throughout the state, excluding Cook County. Serving in Cook County requires a special appointment. Individuals over 18 can be court-appointed.
  • Missouri process servers must complete a training course, pass a written exam, be 21, hold a high school diploma or GED, and carry Errors & Omissions insurance with $100,000 coverage.
  • Montana only requires licensing for process servers handling more than 10 papers annually. A $10,000 surety bond is necessary, and firms must post a $100,000 bond on behalf of their servers. A written exam is mandatory.
  • Nevada mandates process servers to be 21, have 2 years of industry experience (education and employment combined), and carry a $200,000 insurance. A $750 deposit, background check, and application fees up to $1500 are required. Some may face an oral exam along with a written one.
  • New York City process servers, covering Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, or Queens, need licensing from the Department of Consumer Affairs, without requiring insurance, bonding, or testing.
  • Oklahoma process servers need a $5,000 surety bond, a $35 licensing fee per county, or a $150 fee for a statewide license. No exam is necessary.
  • Texas process servers must complete an approved course, submit fingerprints to the Texas Department of Public Safety, and pay a $200 application fee. This is applicable for first-time licensees under Rules 103 and 536(a) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • Washington process servers register with the county auditor, paying a $10 fee. No tests or bonds are required.
Two people shaking hands over a table in the context of hiring process servers.

How to Hire a Process Server

When it comes to hiring a process server, you can hire a series of individual servers, or you can contract with a legal company that provides you with on-demand process servers who are ready to take action as soon as you need it. 

Hiring a process server is straightforward, but it’s important to get it right. 

Start by researching the process-serving companies in your jurisdiction, and checking out their reviews, services, and pricing. Once you have narrowed down your options, contact your chosen company to discuss the specifics of your case or your ongoing needs. A reliable process server will be able to guide you through the necessary details, including any legal requirements and potential challenges. 

Speaking of high-quality process servers, Firefly Legal has a reputation for excellence, professionalism, and accuracy–nationwide. 

What your process server will do 

Once you hire a process server, what does their work look like? How do you know what to expect from your process server? Let’s go through a step-by-step overview of a process server’s work. 

1) Legal Document Preparation

Before you work with a process server, everything starts with the preparation of legal documents, such as summonses, complaints, subpoenas, court orders, and other types of resources.

2) Hiring a Process Server

The initiating party (plaintiff) hires a process server to deliver the legal documents to the individuals who are named in the case (typically the defendants, but this may include additional parties as well). 

3) Verification of Legal Requirements

The process server or the firm that employs them verifies the legal requirements for serving documents in the relevant jurisdiction. This includes understanding who can be served, the acceptable methods of service, and any specific rules governing the case. 

4) Locating the Recipient

Some service recipients are easier to find than others. The process server researches to locate the recipient, using public records, databases, surveillance, or speaking with neighbors and associates. Sometimes, they have to engage in skip tracing, which is a more in-depth search process. 

5) Timing and Planning the Method of Service

Your process server determines the appropriate timing and method of service based on the legal requirements and the specific details of the case. Methods may include personal delivery, leaving the documents with an official representative, or even certified mail.

6) Service of Process

After all of the prep work, it’s time to deliver the documents to the intended recipient! This can occur at home, the workplace, or any other public location and some private locations.

7) Provide Proof of Service

After serving the documents, the server completes an affidavit or proof of service report. This document details when, where, and how the service was performed. This is a crucial part of the legal record. In some circumstances, it will be filed with the court. 

8) Wrap Up

After serving process, the server will return any additional legal documents to the initiating party or their lawyer, file the affidavit with the court as required, and close the service of process order according to state guidelines and company policy. 

Serving legal documents is an essential part of upholding due process rights and keeping cases moving forward efficiently through the justice system. Because process servers take on significant responsibilities, they must have specialized knowledge to carry out service legally and effectively.

Rather than trying to identify and hire process servers on your own, partnering with an established company that specializes in the service of process is the best approach. An experienced provider like Firefly Legal has dedicated teams of knowledgeable process servers across the country who are ready to step in whenever you need support.

Contact Firefly Legal today to learn more about how our nationwide network of professional process servers can meet your unique service of process needs. Our expertise in this area of law means we handle all the specifics for you, while also keeping you informed. 

Get a free quote today.

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