What does a Agent for Service of Process do?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2020
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An agent for service of process is employed by the court to serve notice of litigation to defendants. These agents serve a very important role within the criminal justice system. Each country and state within the United States has its own specific rules for the qualifications for an agent for service of process and specific rules for the type of service that must occur.

When a plaintiff files a lawsuit, the defendant must be made aware of the litigation pending against him. The defendant is entitled to have the opportunity to come to court and defend himself, and he cannot do this unless he is made aware that the court case is happening. In fact, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution guarantee this right to defendants within the US.

In order to ensure that a defendant is made aware of a pending case, service of process is required. This service can take several forms. The most preferred form of service of process is actual service of process.

Actual service of process occurs when an agent for service of process physically hands the papers notifying the defendant of the lawsuit to either the defendant or an agent of the defendant. The defendant signs for the papers and there is no question that he has actual notice of the case. In some types of cases, this is the only service that is acceptable.


An agent for service of process is thus responsible for ensuring that the defendant signs for the papers. This may involve going to the defendant's home or place of work to locate the defendant. Defendants may not wish to be served, so an agent for service of process sometimes has to be both quick and stealthy in serving papers to an unwitting defendant.

Unfortunately, actual service is not always possible. If the defendant cannot be found by the agent who has been hired to serve him, constructive notice may sometimes be the only option. This occurs when notices are placed in newspapers and other efforts are made to notify a defendant.

When a defendant has been served, he must show up in court. If he fails to do so, a default judgment may be entered against him, which is a final judgment that the plaintiff wins the case since the defendant did not come to mount a defense. Thus, agents who serve defendants serve a very important role within the criminal justice system, ensuring that a defendant has a fair chance to be heard.



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