How Process Servers Serve Evasive Individuals
It’s not uncommon for people to avoid a process server since they often come with unwanted news. However, this is never a good idea. Evading a process server will drag a legal matter out, causing unnecessary expenses and waste of court resources. Not to mention that people are very rarely successful in completely avoiding a process server, and even if they are, there are still ways that they can be served if they cannot be found.
Accurate Serve® has plenty of experience tracking down unwilling litigants. Here’s a list of our best practices for finding individuals who think they are above the law:
Do as much research as possible on the intended process recipient, or target, before heading out of the office. The internet and court records should give you plenty to work with when deciding where to attempt service first. For example, if your target has an upcoming court date, you can try catching them at the courthouse at that time. Collect the following information at a minimum:
- Phone numbers
- Vehicle make, model, color, unique bumper stickers, and other identifiers
- Picture or physical description of the target
- Best time and place to contact
- History of evading service
- History of violence
As a part of this initial research, conduct a quick survey of popular social media sites to find as much information as possible about your target. Not everyone is on social media, but even locating a close family member or friend can be useful. Some people even geotag their posts and photos with locations, making your job extra easy. Some popular social media sites to check out include:
However, do not solely rely on information found online, as it is sometimes inaccurate or outdated.
Jot it down
Write down everything that you learn about the target, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse, or use an app on your smartphone. One of those minor details could be what finally helps you find who you are looking for!
Act like you know them
Have you ever turned and looked around after hearing someone call out your name in public, even if you knew that they weren’t speaking to you? It’s your natural instinct to react when you hear your name called, so use this to your benefit when attempting to serve process. If you believe that you’ve found your target, but want to be sure, simply get close to them in a public space and say their name. Chances are that they will at the very least turn and look, giving you one more piece of evidence that you’ve found the correct person. However, you can’t depend on only this tactic to identify someone, so always be sure to verify the target’s identity in some other way also. Photos are extremely helpful to verify identities.
Reach out to friends and family
Most people try to hide the fact that a process server is looking for them from their friends and family, so placing a few strategic phone calls might be all the motivation the target needs to be found. While this tactic shouldn’t be employed at first, it is very useful for targets that remain difficult to find after some time has passed.
Act like you belong
You’re going to have a hard time finding an elusive target if you stick out like a sore thumb, so always dress and act like you belong in whatever setting you are in. For example, don’t wear a t-shirt and jeans to a business office or wear a suit to a local bar. If you look like you’re supposed to be wherever you are, people are much more likely to let their guards down around you and reveal the identity or location of your target.
If you can’t find your target, but have an idea of where they might be hiding, a stakeout may be in order. Start out with just a typical visit to the location. While you’re there, take note (or photos) of anything that would likely change from day to day, such as:
- Oil stains on the driveway
- Power meter readings
- Water meter readings
- Dirty dishes near a sink or items on a coffee table (look through a window – never enter a residence without permission!)
Now, leave and return in a few days for another visit. Have any of the items you noted above moved? Once you’ve confirmed that someone is present at the location, pick a nearby spot to set up shop in your vehicle. Keep an eye on the residence in question, and when the target shows their face, make your move.
As a last resort, after all other avenues of locating the target have been exhausted, you may request an alternative service. If approved by a judge, this means you may serve the target by substitution or publication.
Service by substitution involves serving the process on another competent adult who you believe is likely to give the paperwork to the intended recipient. This can be a spouse, child over the age of 15, friend, or someone else. You must also mail a copy of the process to the target’s last known address when serving by substitution.
Service by publication involves posting a public notice in the local newspaper or on signs for at least 32 days. After 32 days, the target is considered served and your job is done.
Find Evasive Litigants with Help from Accurate Serve®
Are you at your wits end with litigants that don’t want to be found? Is your firm wasting precious time and resources on delayed cases? The process service experts at Accurate Serve® in Ft. Myers can help! Call (239) 822-7299 or send us a work request online to get started today.