Process Server Trespass Issues A process server presents court summons and other legal documentation to those
who are involved in court cases. Service of process is an extremely important
step in the legal process, as it ensures that all parties have an equal opportunity
to present a case. However, accepting the served documents obligates the recipient
to participate in the proceedings or risk consequences. Some would-be recipients
are aware of this fact and try to avoid accepting the documents. Responsibility
then falls to the process server to ensure that the documents are properly served
to the unwilling recipient. However, the process server must continue to follow
all local, state and federal laws and procedures. One of the most confusing aspects
can be trespass laws.
Know the Law
Trespass laws vary dramatically
between jurisdictions. As a process server, you are responsible for knowing exactly
what you and are not permitted to do. Trespass laws are often fuzzy and difficult
to interpret. It is always best to err on the side of caution and find another
means of serving process.
In general, trespass laws
apply to someone infringing on private property to which he or she has not been
invited. Normally, approaching someone's front door in order to knock is not considered
trespassing. However, if the property is fenced and gated, then climbing the fence
or jumping the gate would be considered trespassing.
What if the person
lives in an apartment complex or gated community? Technically, the entire building
or complex can be considered private property. How can you reach the person's
The laws vary widely on this circumstance. In some
jurisdictions, the property owner or manager is required to allow properly documented
process servers to access the location. In some areas, receiving permission to
enter the property from someone else who lives there, such as a neighbor, is sufficient.
It is important to pay close attention to the specific laws that govern such matters
in your area, and always seek legal advice if you are unsure.
Due to vagaries and confusion of trespass laws, it is often
best to simply avoid the situation. Research the would-be recipient's habits and
movements carefully. You may find a more ideal situation in which to serve process.
Remember that it is common for cases to be thrown out due to improper service,
so it is worthwhile to explore all scenarios and choose the one that is the least
likely to be challenged.
The Bottom Line
In many cases, visiting
a would-be recipient at home is the best way to serve process. However, there
are numerous situations in which trespassing concerns could arise. Unless you
are absolutely certain that you are following all applicable laws and procedures,
it is generally best to avoid these situations. Research the daily habits and
movements of the would-be recipient, and you may find a better time and place
to serve process. To do otherwise may jeopardize the entire case and even lead
to legal action against you.