Many people have big fears around process servers and try to avoid them all at costs. But did you know that process servers are actually on YOUR side?
You see, the 6th Amendment of our U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to a speedy and public trial AND to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be able to confront any witnesses against them; and to have counsel in their defense. Without the process server, your 6th Amendment rights might go unprotected.
Here are a few other things that people mistakenly believe about process servers:
1. Process Servers Must Say “You’ve Been Served” or it’s Not Official.
This is a common misconception we’ve gained from watching television. Process servers don’t actually have to say anything. When we serve an individual, we usually only ask the person for their name and then say, “Thank you. These documents are for you.” We try to be polite.
2. Process Servers Must Hand the Documents to You or it’s Not Official.
While we do try to hand the documents to the person we’re serving, if they refuse to accept them, we are allowed to drop them at your feet or place them on your car windshield (if you happen to be sitting in your car when we encounter you). You don’t have to even touch the documents for the serve to be good. In fact, if you identify yourself through a Ring Doorbell speaker and then decide you don’t want to come to the door, we are allowed to leave the documents for you at the door.
3. You Can Avoid a Lawsuit and a Judgment Against You by Successfully Evading a Process Server.
If you evade service, the opposing party has the right to ask the judge to grant them the ability to use alternative forms of service to make things official. These alternative forms of service could be anything from Certified Mail to publication in a newspaper to posting in the basement of the county courthouse. And if you happen to miss that service and fail to respond, you are in danger of getting a default judgment against you which can impact your wages, your assets, and your credit report. Better to accept the service and respond promptly!
4. Process Servers are not Allowed to Approach the Door of a Residence Where a “No Trespassing” Sign is Posted.
Trespassing refers to being in a place one has no legal right to be. Persons may come on to private property to perform legally recognized functions, including postal carrier, meter readers, and process servers. Simply posting a sign has no legal effect whatsoever. In Oregon, the criminal trespass statute is set forth in ORS 164.245. It states that “A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the second degree if the person enters or remains unlawfully in a motor vehicle or in or upon the premises.” ORS 164.205 includes some definitions, including “Enter or remain unlawfully” means: To enter or remain in or upon premises when the premises, at the time of such entry or remaining, are not open to the public and when the entrant is not otherwise licensed or privileged to do so.” So there is still an ambiguity in the definition (who is ‘privileged to’ do so?). If the gate is open or unlocked, process servers will attempt service. And if asked to leave, they will usually do so but only to avoid a physical confrontation.
5. Process Servers are not Allowed to Serve You at Work.
Not only are we allowed to serve you at work, we will usually show your supervisor the paperwork first, and ask them to bring you to the reception area so that you can be served properly. Unfortunately, this might result in everyone at work knowing the details of your private business. Don’t be that person. Let them serve you at home.
6. Process Servers are not Allowed to Trick You by Pretending to Be Someone Else.
While we are certainly not allowed to impersonate a peace officer or any other sort of government official (e.g., fireman, animal control, etc.) we do sometimes just state that we have a delivery for the person in question.
7. You Can Refuse Service by Stating, “I’m Not Accepting That,” and Walking Away.
Unfortunately, not accepting the documents does not nullify the serve. See Number 2, above.
8. Process Servers Must Be Licensed by the State.
In some states, process servers are required to register with the courts in the jurisdiction(s) in which they work, or to get fingerprinted and licensed. Here in Oregon, we don’t have that requirement. One need only be 18 years old or older and not a party to the case for which they are serving the documents. It’s a low bar to meet, so it’s important that you find a trained professional to ensure your service is effected properly and will hold up under scrutiny of the court.
9. Process Servers Cannot Serve You Before 8 a.m. or After 9 p.m. or on Sunday.
Some states do have time and day requirements. And we always follow the rules of the state in which the documents originate. In Oregon, we don’t have those rules. So if your case originates here in our state, process servers are free to attempt service at any time that works. Does that mean they will wake you up in the middle night to serve you? Not if they want to be effective.
10. Process Servers Cannot Serve Documents to Minors.
Under Oregon law, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor (ORS 419B. 550 and ORS 109.510). However, if a minor has been formally emancipated by the courts, some laws pertaining to minors are waived (ORS 419B. 552).
Anyone who lives in the same house as the person named in the case and who is at least 14 years old, may accept service of process on behalf of the person named. This is called Substitute Service and also requires the process server to mail the same documents to the person who should have been served along with a copy of the proof of service they will submit to the court.
Can you sue a minor in Oregon? Sometimes you can!
ORS 30.765 talks about the liability of parents for the actions of their child and states that the underage person can be named as a defendant (along with their parents) in the case.
It’s always best to err on the side of caution and serve the parents of the child named in the case.