Every state takes a different approach when it comes to service of process, and Florida is no exception. In fact, the Sunshine State takes a somewhat more restrictive approach to the delivery of legal documents than other states. When it comes to the service of process in Florida, it’s crucial to know the rules. This knowledge should be a key criterion when choosing a process server. Failure to abide by state laws and regulations governing service of process can delay court proceedings or, even worse, get a lawsuit thrown out altogether. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Florida’s rules around service of process.
Starting Service with The Sheriff Or Court
Some states, such as Oregon, may allow anyone who is over 18 years of age and who is not a party to the case to deliver service of process. Florida opts for a narrower approach. Under Florida service of process rules, only an authorized officer (usually the county sheriff) or a competent, disinterested third-party appointed by the court can serve as a process server in civil cases.
For non-enforceable civil processes, criminal witness subpoenas, and criminal summonses, a special process server appointed by the sheriff can deliver the necessary legal documents. For other matters, Florida service of process rules state that the sheriff of the county can maintain a list of individuals who are designated as process servers. These individuals are certified and appointed by the sheriff to perform process-serving duties.
What Are the Requirements For Becoming A Special Process Server?
A sheriff or court cannot simply appoint anyone to the list of special process servers. Special process servers in Florida must also meet a number of requirements, including:
- Being at least 18 years of age
- Being a permanent resident of the state
- Having no mental or legal disability
In addition, a person who wishes to be a special process server must submit to a criminal background check, obtain and file a certificate of good conduct, and pass an exam testing their knowledge of the laws and rules surrounding service of process in Florida. The county sheriff may prescribe additional requirements within the law before making an individual a special process server.
How May Service Of Process Be Delivered?
Personal service of process is the preferred method of delivering legal documents. This entails the process server handing over the documents in person to the party or parties named in the lawsuit. This method ensures that the party physically received the documents, and the process server can testify to that fact if questioned. Typically, this method of service is accomplished by visiting the residence of the person who is named in the lawsuit. However, sometimes process may be delivered in a public setting.
If repeated attempts at serving process at a residence fail, a process server may be able to complete their duties by leaving the documents with someone else who lives at the home. Under Florida law, the person who accepts legal documents on behalf of someone else in the home must be at least 15 years of age.
Florida Rules of Civil Procedure note that if the party’s residential address is unknown or if service or process cannot be carried out at the party’s home for some reason, then it might be possible to deliver the documents at the party’s place of work. If this is the situation, then the process server must inform the employer in advance that they intend to deliver documents at the party’s workplace. Employers that refuse to comply with such a request could face a fine of up to $1,000.
If the party to the lawsuit owns the business, then the Floria Rules of Civil Procedure state that the process server must attempt to carry out personal service at least two times. If these attempts fail, then process server can leave the documents with a person at the business who has some sort of managerial authority.
What Happens When A Party Can’t Be Found?
In some situations, all reasonable attempts to serve process on a party may prove to be futile. When this occurs, rules of civil procedure state the process server may effectively deliver the documents through substituted service. This may involve serving process via certified mail or by publishing notice in a local publication. What constitutes acceptable substituted service depends on the type of lawsuit that has been filed.
Service by publication is less than ideal, so the court requires the process server to reach a high bar before allowing for service by publication. Under the rules of civil procedure, the process server must swear that they attempted to serve process in several locations and have attempted to find a valid address through various resources which may include:
- Local hospitals
- Local jails
- Tax offices
- The Department of Motor Vehicles
Only when the process server has completed an exhaustive search will a court allow for service by publication.
Sunday Is A Day Of Rest
It’s also worth noting that Florida law prohibits process servers from delivering legal documents or attempting to contact a party for service on a Sunday. If service of process is carried out on a Sunday, then the service will be considered void and the process server will be left to begin again.
ABC Legal Can Help Ensure Service Of Process In Florida Is Carried Out Effectively
Like every jurisdiction, a unique set of rules ensure proper service of process in Florida. It is important that a process server understands what is required to deliver service of process to help avoid any unnecessary delays in a legal proceeding. When you are putting your trust in a process server, you will want to be assured that delivery of all legal documents will be done correctly the first time.
ABC Legal works with a team of certified process servers in Florida. Whether you are in charge of a law firm, are a solo legal practitioner, or are a plaintiff filing a lawsuit without legal assistance, ABC Legal can help ensure your service of process in Florida is carried out efficiently and effectively. To learn more, we invite you to start a conversation or place an order with us today.
The information above does not constitute legal advice and is for general, informational use. Due to the changeability of laws, the information on this page may not reflect the most recent local laws. Always consult current legal and civil codes in your area for the most accurate information.