" I GHOSTED A SERVER LIKE A BOSS"
Serving Sarah, You've Been Served, First Wives Clubs.. Pineapple Express.... All of these stories make for funny movies. But what you see in movies about Process Servers while hilarious, is largely false.. I've never in my life rented a weird costume, or yelled "You've been served!!".. ( I did chase a guy across a parking lot.. and once another Gentleman 2 minutes before he walked his daughter down the aisle with a contempt subpoena .. but I gave him 2 opportunities to meet on his terms and he didn't show as well as went to his home 4 times to get him)... I've definitely heard my share of stories of bad Process Servers.. That said, I treat Defendants with the same respect they show me...Like in most situations in life .. if you are nice, so am I. . The biggest misconception about being served is, " IF I AVOID BEING SERVED.. THEY CAN'T DO ANYTHING TO ME... I CAN AVOID THE WHOLE THING."
Fact is .. I'm there to let you know you have business before the Court.. I'm not there to humiliate or embarrass you. A complaint or subpoena allows you to be aware you have a problem or issue before the Court, and gives you the opportunity to present your side.. Avoiding a legitimate Process Server only looks bad for you in court. Avoidance of a Process Server absolutely promises that your side possibly won't be considered because the Judge won't be able to hear your side. The Court tries to be fair but if you believe avoidance will stop an action against you .. you are JUST plain wrong. The case will go on without you, and not showing up means more than likely the one avoiding will end up with a verdict they don't like..
I GOT SERVED.. BUT I'M GOING TO CLAIM I DIDN'T OR DIDN'T GET SERVED PROPERLY.
Lying about a Service in hopes of making oneself look better or getting a case thrown out on a technicality is wrong and really ill advised. I remember one Defendant.. ( I hadn't served him but knew the colleague who did) who actually showed for Court and proffered to His Honor he hadn't been served. Imagine the Defendant's face when the Judge asked "Well, why are you here then? Whoops.. I must admit I along with the rest of the gallery was tickled, and chuckled en masse while the fella tried to lie his way out of his obvious folly. Servers have to present to the Court a document called an "Affidavit of Service" or "Non-Service". This is a concise record for the Court of the number of times they have attempted to find you and the circumstances under which this occurred. For example, If you chose not to answer your door but the Process Server sees you inside watching TV.. the date, time and your response is documented. So if you show up later and say "Oh well I wasn't served.", it is clear to the Court you were purposely evading Service and chances are you will get no sympathy from a Judge who sees you thought you could just avoid the Service. Another instance would be if you claim you were not served when in fact you were. Believe it or not, people have signed acceptances, and then tried to tell the Court they weren't served. The Affidavit of Service provides the Judge detailed information about the Service. If a Process Server asks you questions about your physical attributes, or you see them taking pictures of your home (some types of Service require a picture of your address that is time/date stamped with GPS coordinates) it's because those details go into the Affidavit of Service.. I actually had a Defendant claim once that I hadn't served him and that he had never seen me before in his life. The clever man went on to say " any information about his description I could have been gotten off Social Media and made the whole thing up." His Honor took his glasses off, closed his eyes, and sat thoughtfully for a minute. The next thing I know, The Judge says " I love my dogs. Have you got dogs sir?" The Defendant grinned really big ( probably believing he was about to make a friend in the Judge over their mutual love of our Canine friends) and proceeds to tell His Honor about his dogs .. 2 Yorkshire Terriers, Dixie and Trixie and how he always has to carrie Trixie because she is the baby ( one of which he had in his arms as I served him). His Honor, back in his role of Jurist begins again with the Defendant.." So you have never seen this lady before a day in your life?" "That's correct Judge". " You are under Oath Sir!", the Judge reminds him. The Defendant continued that I had not served him and he had "never, ever seen me" and even upped the ante swearing on his Mother he had not been served. Before rendering his ruling for the Plaintiff and ending the case in record time, His Honor said " Well, Sir would you care to explain how she knows the name and breed of your dogs, their names, and that you carry one of them everywhere? You know? This lady you've never seen before."
Avoidance By Threat of Violence or Arrest for Trespass.
Recently, a Process Server in Oklahoma was shot by a Defendant during an Eviction Service. The Defendant claimed he shot the Process Server in Self Defense because he was the Home Owner, ( and ergo he could not possibly be evicted from his own home) and had asked the Process Server repeatedly to leave. The man went on that he "only fired when the Server brandished his own weapon." Fortunately, the Process Server will be ok, but the Defendant is facing an Attempted Murder Charge. This now decidedly expensive and inconvenient response to a Service all could have been avoided if the Defendant had simply accepted Service and the provided proof to the Court the Service was in error at a later time.. That would have been the end of it all but now what started as a simple slightly annoying or embarrassing situation is now a really big nasty legal issue that could result in jail time for the "Defendant". Obviously any physical contact with a Process Server or anyone for that matter would carry consequences, but even interference with a Process Server delivering Summons can result in Federal or Local Charge. A Defendant being sly thought he would have his brother, an attorney call and threaten me. Reminding the " Attorney Brother" I would continue to try and find his brother and if necessary would refer him to the Bar of Tennessee for interfering with Process suddenly resulted in quick order with a call from the Defendant tritely asking if it was " too late to accept service before I sent it back to court?" and a rather sheepish apology .. which again tickled me to no end lol..
So if a Process Server is looking for you.. just accept the Service. A Process Server is only the messenger.. if you feel you are in the right or that you are the one that is the aggrieved party.. the place to explain it is in Court, not running from your friendly local Process Server.
Chris Wilkinson is the Owner and a Process Server at Smoky Mountain Process and Legal Services in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you have a question for " Ask a Process Server" email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org