Registered Process Servers: What You Need to Know About California Law


What You Need to Know About California Law For Process Servers

California does not have educational, testing, or certification requirements for process servers, but there are laws that apply relating to: (1) registration; (2) proper service of process; and (3) liability.

Registration and Bonding

California Business & Professions (“B&P”) Code sections 22350 - 22360 govern registration of process servers.

Anyone who performs more than 10 services of process in a year must register, pay fees, and file a $2000 bond. Failure to register is a misdemeanor. Licensed private investigators are exempt, but still may want to register to be able to do all types of process serving.

Registrants apply at the county level, but the registration is effective statewide for two years, and then must be renewed.

Service of Process Laws and Procedures

California has specific laws regarding allowable types and manner of service of process. See California Code of Civil Procedure  (“CCP”) 413.10, 413.20, 413.30.

Generally, the preferred method of serving process is personal service, but under certain circumstances, different types of “substituted service” are permitted.

There are court rulings that deal with specialized situations and remedies including -- for example -- when a person refuses to accept the court documents presented. See, for instance, Khourie, Crew & Jaeger v. Sabek (1990) 220 CA3d 1009 (“drop-serve” allowed).

Service of process to start a lawsuit is not complete until the process server fills out a proof of service of process with his or her registration number and county, and files it with the court. CCP sec. 417.30(a); B&P sec. 22360.

Liability Laws and Issues

There are statutes and court rulings that deal with the consequences of a process server not properly or truthfully completing a proof of service, or for committing abuses.

If a process server does not strictly comply with the rules for service of process, his or her registration may be revoked. B&P sec. 22358(a).  Further, a process-serving company will be liable for the misdeeds of its process servers. B&P sec. 22356.

A member of the public can recover damages in connection with improper service of process and collect against the registrant’s bond. The registrant then must post another bond or the registration may be revoked. Sec. 22357.

A process server may be liable to a member of the public for abusive behavior. See, for example, Golden v. Dungan (1971) 20 CA3d 295 (process server liable for emotional distress damages when he pounded on a door at midnight in a loud, boisterous manner).


Anyone serving process must comply with California law, but the registered process server has a greater responsibility to know, understand, and scrupulously apply these rules -- or be subject to serious consequences.

Contact Direct Legal Support, Inc. for your service of process needs. Connect with us today for more information on how we can help you file and serve your legal documents in California, or throughout the nation.