Currently viewing archive for September 2011

The Right to Defend Yourself

First let me state, process servers should do everything within their power to avoid conflict. I personally have adopted a motto of “serve them and leave them”. I have been called every name in the book. I have been yelled at, told things about my mother I know to be untrue and yet I have never been involved in an altercation. (Knock on wood)

With that said, I know there are instances where process servers are forced to defend themselves and we have a right to defend ourselves from imminent danger or attack. Some process servers have degrees in a martial art or legally carry a conceal weapon. The use of pepper spray is a common legal method used for self defense.

Through this article I do not advocate a preemptive strike, nor do I advocate waiting until you have been attacked prior to defending yourself. Every situation is different and I would leave the actions of self defense to the process server who has his or her boots on the ground. I suggest only those involved in an altercation, exhaust all options to avoid any altercation and the use of common sense.

Should self defense become necessary, I recommend the following:

  • Do everything necessary to protect yourself, do not go overboard
  • Leave the scene quickly but do not leave the area
  • Call the local police department to report the incident
  • Meet with officers to file a report
  • Follow up

Under no circumstances should these things be done tomorrow or days later after you are contacted by the police. I can assure you, the other person involved in the altercation will file a police report. If you delay filing a report the police could take your actions as a sign of guilt.

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Harassment, Trespass and Our Responsibility

Harassment and Trespass

As process servers, we are considered public servants. Our duty to serve court papers, allows us certain rights and responsibilities.

In regards to Trespass:

  1. We have a right to approach a residence. That “right” ends the moment a resident tells us to leave their property
  2. This right to approach a residence does not extend to rural properties where “No Trespassing” signs are displayed
  3. We do not have the right to touch, rifle through, nor peer into mailboxes
  4. We do not have the right to open doors
  5. We do not have the right to transgress along the sides of a home or into the backyard
  6. We do not have the right to peek through windows

An Affirmative Defense exists should a process server be charged with trespass. The affirmative defense becomes void if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reason doubt trespassing occurred and they disprove the process server’s use of the affirmative defense to include not leaving the property when told.

In regards to Harassment

The charge of harassment is loosely defined and tickets are issued out at the officer’s discretion.

To guard against a charge of harassment process servers should not;

  1. Become annoying to the occupants of a residence, i.e. knocking on the door for an extended length of time, or verbally antagonizing a person to bate them into calling the police
  2. Attempting service at abnormal hours
  3. Blocking a driveway or vehicle

Harassment is subjective and can become an issue of who the judge believes more.

Our Responsibility

As a professional process server our responsibilities are many. Our conduct in the performance of our duties is paramount. We are not a party to the case and should not take sides. Our responsibility is to effect service of process according to the rules, in a timely and safe manner.

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