Delivery of Court Summons for Civil or Criminal Lawsuits

The guidelines concerning delivery of a court summons may vary in different jurisdictions; this article should only be taken as a general overview of the process and what can be expected. The process for serving will also differ depending on the type of summons served (e.g. civil, criminal). In many cases, the plaintiff (the person or party who has been wronged and seeks compensation), must determine the most appropriate and effective method of serving the summons, if necessary acquiring the serviced of a private investigator or law enforcement to physically deliver the summons to the defendant. There are several ways a summons may be served: certified postal mail, personal service, and service by publication.

The primary method of serving a summons is by way of personal service, which means someone must physically deliver the summons documents to another person. Local jurisdictions may place restrictions on who is eligible to serve an individual with court papers, and these restrictions will often vary depending on whether the case is civil or criminal. In some areas, only an adult over the age of 21 may serve papers, providing they are not involved in said case and are not related to either party. On the other hand, some jurisdictions have much stricter guidelines and only permit law enforcement officers or officials to serve a summons. Many jurisdictions do permit private investigators to serve defendants with a court summons, however.

An alternative method of serving a summons is by postal mail. While some areas may not permit this method, areas that do will often require the plaintiff to take a series of steps to ensure the defendant receives the documents, meaning the mailing must be trackable. Summons sent through registered or certified mail give the plaintiff a verifiable written record of the mailing, and the defendant must provide a signature in order to receive the letter, for proof of receipt.

In the event that the defendant can’t be readily located (usually they are avoiding you when you attempt to serve them with a summons at their residence), an authorized summons bearer (aka process server) may leave the summons at the defendant’s place of residence or workplace. The law may then require the server to file an affidavit with the court stating that service was attempted.

Service by publication is a last resort method and may or may not be permitted in your local area. If the defendant can not be located and does not respond to either of the above methods, a judge may allow the plaintiff to post an ad in the legal notices section of a newspaper and publish the summons there. Once a certain period of time has elapsed after the ad has been run, the defendant is considered served and the case may proceed with or without the presence of the defendant.

If you are having difficulty delivering a summons, whether you are fearing for your safety or don’t know the location of the defendant, Graves Investigations Inc. in Greensboro, NC can assist you in serving your summons. For more information, please contact us at 877-638-8254.