Imagine a stranger rushing up to ring your doorbell or coming to your office with legal filings that he or she must get to you directly, and in person. What is probably happening is you are being served legal process. You could feel upset and as if you're being hunted, but the truth is that you have a constitutional right to these filings as part of the due process guarantee. Whether these filings are in relation to criminal or civil court, it's important to read them carefully.
We are interested in explaining some of the legal documents you can be process served more extensively in our attempt to ease your anxieties.
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 attorney near me 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.
Let's do a rundown of the broad types of legal documents 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 show up before a judge or administrative court. These should always give a date and time on which to appear. If you don't appear, you can either be charged with contempt of court or can lose the civil case as a "non-responsive party".
Subpoenas: These fall under separate rules from complaints and generally have to be sent by a court clerk. They are a type of summons, but they force you to appear as a witness to give testimony, require you to present documents or make you attend a deposition. These are often served between attorneys rather than to you personally, but ignoring them can mean contempt charges or a forfeiture of your claims and a ruling against you.
Small Claims Summons: Cases in which the amount of money at issue is small often come from small claims court, and they can be classified as complaints in most cases. These often mean you have to pay the debt or to appear before the court. If you don't, you will likely have a credit judgment against you.
Petitions: This kind legal filing begins a lawsuit, but asks for non-monetary or equitable relief These can also be given in court cases such as those in family law.
Indictments: These criminal filings come after a grand jury, led by a prosecutor, gathers to consider a potential criminal case against you. A grand jury, like a regular jury, is made up of peers but the proceedings aresecret. This special group determines whether the prosecution has enough evidence against you to charge you with a felony. Without an indictment, the most serious cannot be argued before a judge. Indictments will be given to you or your lawyer.
Complaints: A complaint is a kind of legal document, usually civil, and is generally the first kind of legal document filed in a lawsuit. If you are given one of these, it means you are the defendant in a lawsuit. Criminal complaints are more serious than tickets or citations but often less sever than indictments.
Civil Summons: This legal call to court comes with an exact time when you should appear. It is separate from a simple filing informing you of the legal proceedings. These can be given by a constable in many kinds of civil cases, including divorce and child custody matters.
Citation: These relatively minor summons are given, most often, by law enforcement, so aren't technically in the category of process serving. The most common citations, including traffic tickets, often require that you go before a judge by a specified date. Signing one of these is not an admission of guilt but, rather, a promise to appear. If you don't keep your word, it can mean immediate findings of guilt and escalating fines and court fees.
Administrative Summons: These come from the federal tax collectors at IRS and are for the purpose of ensuring that everyone complies with the tax laws. These administrative orders require the receiving party to make an appearance before a federal tax examiner and offer documentation. This is set aside as the ultimate step in an IRS investigation.
Two U.S. Constitutional Amendments guarantee the right to due process in legal matters. Many other countries also protect the right for due process and have process serving procedures. If you are suing, it's vital to your case to get process documents served properly to your opponent. If you are being sued, it's just as important to pay attention to the complaint, summons or subpoena or you could be charged with contempt. Process serving may be an unwelcome event, but it's necessary under our system of governance.