Can a Subpoena be Served by Mail?

February 8, 2024

A subpoena is like a court order that requires an individual or entity to witness in court or provide specified documents relevant to a case. For a subpoena to be effective, the serving party must ensure that it is legally valid. One of the key factors that determine if a subpoena is valid is the method of service.

Serving a subpoena the wrong way, to the wrong person, or missing any requirement may affect the success of your case. For instance, the court can modify or quash subpoenas if the recipient files a valid motion to dismiss due to insufficient service. So, it’s important to ensure you serve your subpoena using the right method.

Can a subpoena be served by mail? Yes, you can serve a subpoena by mail in most jurisdictions. However, there are specific requirements you must fulfill for the mailed subpoena to be valid, and these requirements may vary across different jurisdictions. In most cases, the law requires the server to use certified or registered mail in order to get a return receipt as proof of service.

If you’re an attorney who needs to send subpoenas without legal complications, we want to help you make the process very easy and fast. With our same-day delivery, our professional process servers at On-Call Legal deliver subpoenas with speed and precision to ensure that your legal proceedings proceed without delay. We deliver 24/7 nationwide – anywhere, anytime. Schedule a free consultation with us to discuss your process service and guide you throughout the process.

In this blog, you’ll learn the legal requirements for serving a subpoena by mail, the common challenges of this method, and how to serve a subpoena by mail successfully.

Is it Legal to Serve Subpoena by Mail?

Is it Legal to Serve Subpoena by Mail?

In most states in the US, it is legal to serve a subpoena by mail. However, the rules, requirements, and conditions for mailing subpoenas may vary from state to state. So, you need to confirm that it’s allowed in your state and the specific regulations and requirements you need to fulfill to make the subpoena valid.

According to the California Department of General Services, subpoenas to produce documents (subpoena duces tecum) may be served via mail in California. However, you’re required to add five days to the service time if you’re serving by mail. On the other hand, personal service is required for a subpoena that requires someone to testify.

In Arizona, you can serve a subpoena by certified mail for delivery to the recipient only. The Arizona Legislature requires that the server registers the mail and pays the postage and registry fee. The mail should be addressed to the person served. Also, the sender is required to attach a note on the envelope to request for the letter to be sent back to the sender if it isn’t delivered within five days.

If you’re unsure about the specific rules that apply in your jurisdiction, we can do it for you, reach out to our experienced process servers at On-Call Legal for expert guidance.

Subpoena Service By Mail For Different Types of Cases

Subpoena Service By Mail For Different Types of Cases

The type of legal case, whether it’s civil, or criminal, influences the rules for serving subpoenas by mail.

Civil subpoenas may require the recipient to produce documents, such as business records, attend depositions, or appear in court. Most civil cases allow subpoena service by mail although specific requirements may vary between jurisdictions. In such cases, you must serve the mail in a way that allows for confirmation of receipt, such as certified or registered mail.

For criminal cases, there are usually stricter requirements for serving subpoenas due to the higher stakes involved. Although direct personal service by law enforcement or other authorized individuals is more common, mail service can also be used.

In terms of jurisdiction, federal cases can involve parties from different states or countries, making the rules for both personal service and mail service especially important to understand and follow. Generally, federal rules allow for the service of federal subpoenas by mail. But like in civil cases, federal subpoenas must be served through methods that provide a return receipt or proof of delivery.

To be sure you’re on track, stay up to date with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure for proper guidance on acceptable methods of service, including by mail. No matter the scope of your case, it’s best to trust your subpoena in the hands of a professional messenger service as they understand the process and will help you serve the document effectively.

7 Common Challenges Associated With Service of a Subpoena By Mail & How To Solve Them

As an attorney, there are several challenges you’ll likely encounter in proving receipt when you serve subpoenas by mail. Especially in jurisdictions with strict conditions for service of process by mail, these challenges can significantly impact the progress of a case. Some of these challenges include:

1. Lack of Direct Proof of Receipt

Lack of Direct Proof of Receipt

Unlike personal delivery where a process server can attest to delivering the document directly to the recipient, mail does not offer the same level of direct proof. This can make it difficult to confirm that the intended recipient actually received the subpoena.

Solution: Use certified mail with the return receipt requested or electronic delivery confirmation to provide proof of delivery. Alternatively, consider using electronic service methods if permitted by the court, as they can provide automatic confirmation of receipt.

2. Delivery Delays and Errors

Mail can be delayed, misplaced, or even lost. That’s why sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain whether the subpoena was delivered to the correct address or within the required timeframe. Such issues can delay a legal proceeding and may require the requesting party to repeat the process.

Solution: Consider employing a professional process server for direct service. On-Call Legal can serve nationwide within 24 hours or less. Give us a call let’s help you serve your subpoena the same day.

3. Disputes Over Authenticity of Signature

For cases that require certified mail and signature upon delivery, the recipient may dispute the authenticity of the signature or claim that someone else signed for the mail without their consent or knowledge.

Solution: Look for process servers that provide detailed tracking and confirmation of receipt, including the name of the person who signed the document. If the case is under severe contention, consider obtaining a court order for alternative service methods.

4. Refusal to Accept Mail

Refusal to Accept Mail

Some individuals may refuse to accept mail when they suspect that it contains legal documents. This makes it challenging to prove that they were properly served. While certain jurisdictions may consider a refusal as an effective service, it may be a bit complicated to prove that the subpoenaed person actually did not accept the service.

Solution: Document attempts to serve by mail, including details of refusal. Also, you can seek court approval for alternative service methods such as publication in a newspaper, electronic service, or posting at the recipient’s last known address.

5. Verification of Recipient Identity

Unlike in-person delivery, it may be challenging to prove that it was the intended recipient and not someone else that received the mail at the same address. This is particularly true in situations involving shared residences or office spaces.

Solution: Use delivery methods that require the recipient to present identification, such as a driver’s license number, when they receive the mail. You can also use electronic service methods that can authenticate the recipient’s identity. At best, consider involving a professional process server who understands how to attest to the recipient’s identity.

6. Compliance with Jurisdictional Requirements

Compliance with Jurisdictional Requirements

Different jurisdictions have different requirements for serving subpoenas by mail. The service requirements may specify the types of mail that must be used (e.g., certified mail, registered mail) and how proof of service must be documented. You need to comply with these rules to effectively serve a subpoena by mail.

Solution: Do your due diligence to identify and adhere to the service requirements applicable in the jurisdiction where you’re serving the legal document. It’s recommended to consult with a local attorney for professional guidance.

7. International Service

Serving subpoenas to other countries comes with extra challenges. You have to deal with different international mail rules and agreements, such as the Hague Service Convention.

Solution: As an attorney, it’s important to understand the relevant laws that apply to service by mail in other countries. To avoid costly mistakes, it’s best to hire process servers that are experienced in sending legal documents across borders.

Understanding the Subpoena by the Recipient

Understanding the Subpoena by the Recipient

Whether it’s a deposition subpoena, witness subpoena, or to produce documents, the receiving party needs to understand the seriousness and legal obligations it imposes. This is because misunderstanding the document may affect their response and as a result, land them in legal trouble. So, understanding the document by the recipient is one of the primary concerns of attorneys serving subpoenas by mail.

To minimize misunderstanding, here are some steps you can take when serving a subpoena:

  1. Use straightforward, easy-to-understand language in the subpoena. Explain what it is, why it has been issued, and what is expected of the recipient. Avoid legal jargon as much as possible.
  2. Clearly highlight important details such as the response deadline, the nature of the requested information or action, and the consequences of non-compliance.
  3. Provide a brief FAQ section addressing common questions about subpoenas, such as the recipient’s rights, how to comply, and who to contact for more information.
  4. Include clear contact information for someone – a legal assistant, paralegal, or attorney – who can answer questions and provide guidance on how to respond to the subpoena.

The Role of Legal Counsel is in Helping Recipients Understand Subpoenas

The Role of Legal Counsel is in Helping Recipients Understand Subpoenas

As an attorney or legal representative, you also have a crucial role to play in helping the intended recipient understand a subpoena and respond accordingly.

First, you should attempt to contact the recipient before the subpoena is served to provide a verbal explanation and answer any relevant questions. Then, you can send an accompanying letter with the subpoena. The letter should be written in plain language, summarizing the key points of the subpoena and emphasizing the legal significance.

Also, as a legal counsel, you should make it clear that you’re available to assist with any questions or concerns about the subpoena. This will encourage recipients to reach out if they need to be clear on the content.

Finally, after sending the subpoena, consider following up with the recipient to ensure they received and understand the document. This could be a phone call or a letter, depending on the circumstances. By taking these steps to improve understanding, you make it easier for the recipient to comply so that the legal process can proceed more smoothly for all parties involved.

How to Handle Recipient Refusal or Evasion

How to Handle Recipient Refusal or Evasion

Service of a subpoena by mail may not be considered “effective” until the witness acknowledges the receipt of the subpoena by telephone, by mail, or in person. When recipients claim non-receipt of a subpoena or actively avoid mail service, it presents significant challenges to the legal process.

To address this issue, you’ll need a combination of legal knowledge, strategic planning, and preventive measures. Here are some tips to guide you.

  1. Keep detailed records of all attempts to serve the subpoena, including dates, times, and methods used. This documentation is crucial for proving due diligence in serving the subpoena.
  2. Seek court approval for alternative methods of service if you suspect evasion. This could include service by email, social media, publication in a newspaper, or posting at the recipient’s last known address or place of business.
  3. In cases of continued evasion, request a court hearing to address the issue. The court may take further actions, such as holding the recipient in contempt or issuing a warrant, to compel compliance.
  4. Consider employing professional process servers who have experience dealing with evasive recipients. These professionals often have strategies and legal means to serve documents successfully.

Preventative Measures to Minimize Evasion

Communicate clearly. As mentioned previously, clear and understandable communication in the subpoena can help minimize misunderstandings or intentional avoidance.

If possible, engage with the recipient early in the process to explain the importance of the subpoena and the legal obligations it entails. This can help reduce fear or reluctance to comply.

Utilize technology such as certified mail with tracking, electronic service (if legally allowed), or other methods that provide proof of delivery.

Looking for a reliable way to serve subpoenas?

Serving subpoenas by mail can be tricky, and you want to make sure you’re doing it correctly. It’s best to hire the services of a reputable process server like On-Call to make it easy.

We’re committed to helping attorneys, individuals, and organizations get their subpoenas to the right recipient in no time. Apart from super-fast delivery, we’re also available to guide you through the process. Just give us a free call let’s discuss your needs and get started.

On-demand legal services with arranging services from eFiling to organizing and preparing your subpoena for records and/or personal appearance and much more.

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