The Trained Process Server Special Skill: Finding and Serving the Evasive or Missing Defendant

Mike's iphone Pictures 383The Trained Process Server Special Skill: Finding and Serving the Evasive or Missing Defendant

Everyday, registered process servers provide cost-effective and efficient services to the legal profession in routine cases. But when a named defendant in a lawsuit is determined to evade service or is missing from a last known address, these professionals bring special skills and expertise to ensure that valid, timely service is made and the litigation can proceed.

The Evasive Defendant

Some people seem determined to block any and all service attempts. In the end, this strategy fails because a court will eventually order service by mail or publication on a recalcitrant defendant who continues to evade service. Further, a competent professional knows how to find that target well before that option of last resort is necessary.

A registered server uses traditional surveillance techniques along with the latest virtual tools like social media and Google searches to learn about a target’s daily routine and habits. Many social media users unwittingly disclose significant personal information, including their whereabouts when they are away from home or work, and their favorite restaurants and activities.

In many situations where a person refuses to answer a door or to accept the service documents, a method known as “drop-serve” can be used. This technique, which involves dropping the summons and complaint near the actual, physical presence of the target is valid under the law of most states, including California. A defendant cannot avoid service by moving away and refusing to take proffered court documents, or by creating physical barriers to service of process.

In any event, after several legitimate but unsuccessful attempts, the trained process server can file the necessary declarations and proof with the court to have service by mail or publication approved.

The Missing Defendant

When a named defendant does not live or work at a last-known address, the process server can use a technique called skip-tracing. Available services include basic skip-tracing assignments to more complicated searches of government and business records. If a more extensive search is necessary, the process-server can comb records from a wide array of government, business, and online sources including – for example – DMV and property title records, corporate and partnership filings, professional license databases, civil and criminal dockets, employment records, and financial data.

Again, the internet and social media are valuable resources for information and leads. Few people today can entirely disappear; they leave many “digital footprints” that can be traced.

Nevertheless, if a target cannot be located, then an application can be made to the court for approval for service by publication.

Named defendants use what they believe are clever methods to block access to themselves, to evade service attempts, or to disappear. However, the experienced process server’s training, tenacity, and ingenuity prevails.

Contact Direct Legal Support, Inc. for your service of process needs. Call 213-483-4900 or email us to find out more information about the services we provide.


California Code of Civil Procedure sections 413.10 et seq,

In re Ball (1934) 2 Cal.App.2d 578, 579

Khourie, Crew & Jaeger v. Sabeck (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1009, 1013-1014