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What are Process Servers NOT Authorized to do

North Carolina is one of many states that doesn’t have a certification or licensing program requirement for private process servers. Instead, anyone 21 or older who is competent, is not a party of the court case, and is not related by blood or marriage to any part of the court case may serve process in North Carolina when authorized to do so. However, just because the rules about who can be a process server aren’t very strict doesn’t mean that process servers here can just do whatever they want. There are still rules that private process servers in North Carolina must follow.

In North Carolina, private process servers may NOT:

Serve Process Without Proper Authorization

You may be surprised to learn that a private process server is not always the appropriate person to first attempt service of process in NC. According to Chapter 1A, Rule 4 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, for summons and complaints in civil cases, the sheriff of the county where the service is to be made is the appropriate person. Only if the sheriff or their representative does not serve the process before the 30-day deadline (60 days in tax and assessment foreclosure cases) can a private process server be requested to serve the process. The request to use a private process server must also be approved by the Clerk of Court in the county where the case is filed before the server can take on the job.

Not respecting this hierarchy can lead to serious consequences, as seen in several NC cases like Locklear v. Cummings and Stewart v. Shipley.

The service of subpoenas is a little bit different. Subpoenas may be served by “the sheriff, by his deputy, by a coroner or by any other person not less than 18 years of age, who is not a party” according to Chapter 1A, Rule 45 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Since subpoenas are not signed by the Clerk of Court prior to issuance, the clerk would not need to approve the use of a private process server to serve a subpoena only.

Break the Law

No matter what type of case a private process server is working on, they are never allowed to break any laws to get the process served. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Trespassing
  • Breaking & Entering
  • Communicating Threats
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Impersonating a peace officer
  • Lying to a police officer or court
  • Fraud
  • Traffic violations

If a private process server is caught committing a crime while serving process, they can be arrested and prosecuted the same as any other person. If anything, private process servers should uphold even higher ethical standards than the average citizen.

Serve Process Outside of NC Without Proper Approval

Sometimes the process for a case filed in North Carolina must be served on someone outside of the state. In these cases, the private process server needs to be authorized to serve process in the state/county where the process is to be served. North Carolina also mandates that this person be at least 21 years old, even if the place where service is to be made does not require this.

Forget About Proof of Service

A private process server’s job isn’t done as soon as the process changes hands. Proof of service is an important, yet often overlooked, part of the serving process. In cases where a defendant or witness claims that they were never served, proof of service provides the plaintiff with verifiable evidence that these claims are false.

As soon as every defendant named on the summons is served, the summons should be returned to the Clerk of Court in the filing county with information about the service of each defendant. If all defendants cannot be served before the service deadline, the summons should be returned to the clerk as soon as the deadline passes so that the plaintiff can file for an endorsement to have the service deadline extended. The plaintiff may also request an alias or pluries summons if the original summons cannot be served in time. Since subpoenas are not issued by the Clerk of Court, proof of service does not need to be returned to the clerk, but it is still highly recommended that proof of service for subpoenas be kept in the same way as summons and complaints.

Not returning proof of service to the Clerk of Court does not invalidate the service itself, but it can make things difficult for the plaintiff down the road.

Quality Process Servers in North Carolina

For qualified, knowledgeable, and ethical process servers in North Carolina, look no further than Accurate Serve® of Charlotte. To get started, call us at (704) 858-2952 or send us your work requests online. If you need service outside of North Carolina, visit theaccurateservefranchise.com to find the office closest to you.