Imagine a stranger strolling up to your front door or coming to your office with legal filings that he or she must hand to you personally. What is probably happening is you are being served legal process. You could feel intimidated and as if you're being hunted, but the truth is that you have a civil right to these papers as part of the due process guarantee. Whether these papers are about civil or criminal matters or issues large or small, you should take action as soon as possible.
We are interested in explaining some of the types of legal filings you can be process served broadly because we want to help relieve your fears.
States have different rules for who can serve process, but it's best if the opposing party has hired a professional like those at family law East Troy, Wi to do the job. These people will understand all the legal rules and ramifications, particularly about things like stalking and trespassing, so they can ensure that both the rights of the recipient and the responsibilities of the plaintiff or prosecutor are attended to.
Broadly, here are the some of the types of legal filings you could be handed by a process server:
Summons: Whether in criminal court or the halls of civil justice, a summons is a call for you to appear in court before a judge or jury. These usually give a date and time on which to appear. If you don't, you can either be deemed "non-responsive" and lose the case or can be charged criminally.
Citation: These are a particular type of summons given, generally, by police officers, so aren't technically process serving. The most common citations, including tickets for drinking, smoking or trespassing in specific places, usually require that you show up in court or pay fines by a future date. Receiving one of these is not any further responsibility or admission but, instead, a pledge that you will show up. Failure to do so can mean immediate findings of wrongdoing and escalating fines and court fees.
Civil Summons: This is a type of complaint in a civil matter that includes an exact time and date when you should go to court. It is separate from a simple document informing you of the legal proceedings.
Administrative Summons: These are sent by the federal tax collectors at IRS and are part of the process of making sure everyone pays heed to the tax laws. These administrative orders require the person being served make an appearance before a tax examiner and have in hand documentation. This is usually the final step in an IRS investigation.
Small Claims Summons: Process serving documents related to small personal financial disagreements usually come from small claims court as complaints. These usually require you to start working with the creditor right away or go see a judge. If you don't show up, you will likely have a credit judgment against you.
Complaints: A complaint is a kind of legal filing, usually civil, and is generally the first filed in a court case. If you are handed a complaint, it means you are being sued. There can also be criminal complaints, which are more severe than tickets or citations but often less serious than indictments.
Indictments: These criminal filings come after a grand jury, led by a prosecutor, gathers to consider a criminal case against you. A grand jury, like a regular jury, is made up of peers but the proceedings are kept confidential, even from the defendant. This special jury determines whether there is enough evidence to charge you with a crime. Without an indictment, the most serious crimes, such a murders, cannot be argued before a judge. Indictments will be handed to you or your legal representative.
Petitions: This kind legal pleading initiates a court case, but asks for something other than money such as a Writ of Mandamus (an order to do or cease doing something) or Habeus Corpus (a request for person under arrest to be brought before a judge to learn why they were arrested). These can also be served in court cases such as those regarding child custody and probate of will.
Subpoenas: These fall under separate rules from complaints and usually have to be signed off on by a court clerk. They are a type of summons, but they force you to appear as a witness, require you to present documents such as designated records, books, papers, documents, or tangible things or tell you to attend a deposition with an lawyer. These are often served between attorneys rather than to you in person, but not appearing can mean contempt charges or a forfeiture of your claims and a ruling against you.
The U.S. Constitution, like the constitutional documents of many other countries around the globe, protect citizens by guaranteeing due process of law. Everyone is entitled to a chance to argue their case in a fair, equitable forum. Professional process service is a very important part of this civil guarantee and, when done the right way, can make the situation easier for everyone.