Good day, and welcome once again to the Baton Rouge Process Servers podcast. I am your host, Louisiana process server Scott Frank, and today we will be discussing a topic that many may find controversial. Are process servers allowed to trespass to serve paperwork as part of their job? Can you believe it’s not the same everywhere, and different states have different laws? This is not as cut and dried as some process servers would have you believe, and depending upon which state you reside in, violating the status quo can lead to criminal charges for the process server. So, let’s dive right into this tantalizing topic.
It can be really frustrating for attorneys, plaintiffs, and process servers to get paperwork served on the person that it is meant for in a timely and accurate manner. There are some folks, after all, that dodge service because they know they are getting sued and do whatever they can to avoid the situation.
But, while process servers can go to some extreme lengths to serve an evasive person, there are, of course, limits. For example, when one has a “no trespassing” sign up on their property, what does this mean for a process server? Can he or she perform the necessary duties of his or her job with such a restriction in place?
While any process server would completely understand why a person, especially a woman, living alone, would not want to open the door to a person he or she does not know, it does not make it illegal, regardless of a posted sign, in Louisiana, at least, for a process server to knock on your door or be on your property. It is also not illegal for you to ignore him or her, but it is naïve. We will find you eventually, and your legal troubles will not disappear.
Louisiana process servers can serve you at home or at any public or private place if they can verify who you are. So, calling the police to dismiss a process server for trespassing is not only a waste of time and resources, but it really is senseless.
Trespassing, by definition, means being in or at a place where you have no legal right to be. However, our laws provide leeway for those that come onto private property to perform legally recognized functions, such as reading water and electric meters, delivering mail, selling door-to-door, and serving process. This means that posting an anti-trespassing sign gives one no legal recourse against any of these fine people simply doing their jobs.
As mentioned before, you don’t have to open the door to a process server, but you may be served by other means afterwards. We can get the court’s permission to post a newspaper notice for 30 days, or we can serve you at work, or at the gym, or while grocery shopping. You are not really escaping anything. After a month of newspaper publication, you will be legally considered served and can receive a default judgment against you if you do not show up for court.
So, yes, we will trespass, if you want to call it that, to serve documents correctly and on time. Gated communities and signage are not really deterrents for good process servers that only care about getting the job done and doing it within the confines of the law. Now, unlike law enforcement, process servers have no greater authority than any other member of the public to enter private property, though the specific purpose of the visit overrides this generality. Service of process gives one a privilege to enter a property for the express purpose of such a job. It is not a right enjoyed by the individual outside of his or her duties, however. It is like how the meter woman and the Amazon delivery guy can’t just sit in your backyard in their off time. Their access is strictly an occupational designation.
Now, that is not to say that this is the law everywhere. In some states, if a “no trespassing” sign is posted and visible, a private process server is not permitted to legally enter the property. In these jurisdictions, private process servers are classified as civilians, even if they are serving in an official capacity. And, as civilians, they must obey all the same laws as other citizens. So, if a process server must serve one in such a situation, he or she will have to find the person somewhere else, whether it’s at his or her place of employment or elsewhere.
Some states even have specific laws on the books that state that process servers are not permitted to ignore gates or anti-trespassing signage. Texas and California are two states that hold process servers to this standard as a matter of law.
One process server in Texas says that in his state purple paint that is displayed in a particular manner on fence posts means that trespassing is highly discouraged and that process servers must oblige. Other states have similar codes, yet use different colors, such as lime green or neon orange.
In California, process servers have defended civil trespass charges by claiming a “public officer’s immunity for legal process enforcement.” This makes sense since they are serving summonses, but, in California, a private process server is not considered an officer of the court or a public official. However, the defense has been upheld as precedent in U.S. v. Wiseman, 445 F.2d 792 (1971) because they are performing a “public function” for a “public purpose” when serving a lawsuit, subpoena, or other process.
Therefore, is very important that all private process servers are well-versed in local trespassing laws because they certainly vary between states.
There are alternatives to using a private process server, of course, if you live in an area where it is difficult to serve one in his or her own home. You can ask a local sheriff, who is permitted to be on private property in his or her official capacity, regardless of gates and signage posted. While this seems ideal, just remember that sheriffs’ departments take care of so many duties daily that your paperwork may take a long while to get served.
Remember, you can still use a private server to serve your papers in such areas, just not at some residences. A good process server is adept at research, including skip tracing, and he or she is likely to locate the intended serve outside the house. Trust that the person will be found because we know so many tricks of the trade that it is hard to get past us.
Keep in mind, if you ever have the need to acquire the services of punctual, accurate, and experienced process servers in the Louisiana area, or even in bordering states, give us here at Baton Rouge Process Servers, a call, text, or email. Our direct number is 1-866-237-2853, or you can send us a quick note at [email protected]
So, that concludes our time together today. Be sure to check out the podcasts on our sister sites, www.lafayette-process-servers.com and www.metairie-process-servers.com to learn the answers to even more of your process serving questions. Thanks for listening to us and we’ll see you next week for another informative episode.
The foregoing podcast has simply been presented for informational purposes only. Mr. Scott Frank and his staff at Lafayette Process Servers LLC are not attorneys. Laws and regulations vary among states and specific jurisdictions. If you seek further information about this topic or any other legal issues, please contact an attorney or lawyer in your local area.