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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.

Gray Areas
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 individual residence?

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.

Is There an Alternative?
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.

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How A Process Service Works
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I Have Been Served Now What?
Methods of Serving Process
Process Server Associations
Process Server Trespass Issues
The Where When And How Of Process Service
Rules of Process Serving
Skills of a Successful Process Server
The Rights of the Person Being Served
Tips and Tricks for Process Servers
What does a process server do
Hiring a Process Server
Insurance Needs for Process Servers
Internet Research for Process Servers
Process Server Conventions
Process Server Education
Serving Process on Special Populations
Serving Process on Those Living Elsewhere
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