Understanding Process Server Laws in California

December 8, 2023

The legal system can be complicated and confusing when you don’t understand the various roles involved and terminologies. A process server ensures due processes occur through the proper delivery of legal documents to all parties involved. 

The work they do includes serving subpoenas, complaints, summons, etc. They play an integral role in maintaining integrity within the legal system. 

While it is important to understand the concept of process servers within the legal system, you should also know the specific laws and regulations guiding their activities. Adhering to these regulations is essential to avoid legal complications like case dismissals or fines. 

California has specific laws and regulations on the activities of process servers like licensing requirements and methods of service.

With our years of experience at On-Call Legal, we have a deep understanding of California’s process serving laws.

Our team comprises licensed and knowledgeable professionals who know the importance of transparent and compliant process serving. We aim to empower everyone with the knowledge needed to navigate California’s legal procedures. 

You do not have to be a legal professional before getting involved in a civil procedure. Understanding California’s process serving laws is essential and we will break down all concepts in this article.

Who is a Process Server?

A process server is an active partaker in legal proceedings. This person is responsible for delivering legal documents to all parties involved in a civil procedure. 

The process server gives people these documents to make sure they are aware of the legal actions against them. Then, a process server goes ahead to facilitate due processes in the judicial system. 

Duties of a Process Server

Some of the duties of a process server include: 

Serving Legal Documents: The process of giving people legal documents is known as service of process. We can say that process servers are the delivery men of the judicial system. 

Verification: After giving the necessary parties the legal documents, process servers must provide proof of service to the court. It is a declaration of when, where, and how the service was executed. This documentation confirms that due process has been followed and served. 

Knowledge of Legal Requirements: Process servers must have full grasp of the legal system and legal requirements. They must know and understand the acceptable methods of service, governing rules, time restrictions, etc.

Maintains Integrity: A process server must be neutral while carrying out legal responsibilities. They ensure that legal documents are delivered without bias. This helps to portray the judicial process in a good light and promote integrity. 

Prevents Delay and Disputes: Process servers help prevent delay in legal proceedings. This reduces the likelihood of disputes arising from improper notification. 

Facilitates Communication: A process server is a middle man between the court and the parties involved in legal processes.

California Process Server Laws: An Overview

California Process Server Laws: An Overview

There are many rules and regulations for process servers in California. It ensures that these people are carrying out their duties with diligence and protecting the rights of those involved in legal proceedings. 

Here’s a breakdown:

Licensing Requirements: In California, a process server must have a license before carrying out any duty. The process of getting the license is handled by the California Secretary of State. Any individual interested in becoming a process server must be at least 18 years old and pass a background check. 

Service of Process: According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, documents must be delivered directly to the named individual or organization. However, there is provision for substituted service if personal service is not possible.

In such a case, a summons may be served to another responsible person at the recipient’s home. In addition, the process server should also mail a copy of the summons to the recipient. 

Time Restriction: There are specific timeframes within which documents must be served. But it depends on the type of legal action being taken. 

It is also important to note that the California Code of Conduct prohibits serving documents on Sundays or certain holidays. 

Proof of Service: Serving documents isn’t done through word of mouth. Process servers must provide proof of service to the court. 

Proof of service is a detailed document that highlights when, where, and how the service was conducted. 

Restricted Areas: As a process server, there are some limitations when it comes to delivering or serving documents. For example, you cannot and should not access the residence of the person to be served without their consent. You should also not use force or engage in any act that can be termed harassment. 

As a process server, ignorance is not an excuse to go against any of these rules and regulations. It is important to always stay abreast of this information. 

If you do not comply, you could face consequences of fines, case dismissal, or other legal actions. 

Key Legislation and Statutes 

Key Legislation and Statutes 

Some California Code as it relations to process servers include: 

California Business and Professions Code Section 22350 – 22360 

This section highlights the requirements needed for process servers to get a license in California. 

California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 415.10 – 415.95

Here, you can see the rules guiding service of legal documents in California. It also includes provisions for personal service and substituted service. 

California Business and Professions Code Section 22450 – 22460 

Here, you learn about the penalties and consequences for going against the laws and regulations guiding process servers in California.

Service of Process: Types

Service of Process: Types

The concept of service of process entails that those to be served are properly notified of the legal actions against them. To understand this better, you need to know the types of service. 

Types of Service 

Personal Service: Here, a process server has to deliver the documents directly to the person to be served. The server must identify and serve the correct person to ensure proper notification. It is the most preferred method in California. 

Substituted Service: In cases where personal service is not possible, substituted service is allowed. For this, the process server leaves the summons with another responsible person at the recipient’s home or business. Then, the server also sends a copy of the summons to the recipient’s mail.

Service by Mail: Certain types of summons and complaint can be served by mail in California. However, it has to be on the recipient’s consent. And, it has to be in line with California Code of Civil Procedure. 

Commonly Served Documents 

Some commonly served documents by process servers are: 

Summons and Complaint: These documents indicate to the recipient that there is a lawsuit against them. It is usually delivered in the form of personal service. 

Subpoenas: This document is usually served to compel witnesses to testify or produce documents in court. The method of service varies depending on the type of subpoena and the individual being served. 

Notices and Orders: Eviction notices and restraining orders are examples of notices and orders. The method of service also depends on the type of notice. 

Challenges and Limitations in Service of Process

Challenges and Limitations in Service of Process

Some common challenges and limitations faced by a process server include: 

Evasion and Avoidance: Defendants may be aware of impending legal actions and take measures to evade service. This makes it difficult for a process server to complete their duties effectively. 

Privacy Concerns: According to the law, a registered process server has the right to access the property of an individual to be served. However, the person being served has to willingly let the process server gain access. When the individual acts difficult and resists, issues may arise. 

Difficult Respondents: Some respondents may be difficult or confrontational during the service of process. A process server has to be mindful in such situations. 

No Use of Force: The law prohibits a process server from using force while engaging people. So even if respondents get defensive or confrontational, a registered process server must reply on legal and non-confrontational means to get the task done. 


Whether you’re a legal professional, a person involved in legal matters, or a process server, staying informed is key.

Reach out to us at On-Call Legal to learn more about how we can assist you in navigating the complexities of process serving in California. 

Process Server Laws in California FAQs

How many attempts will a process server make in California?

Typically, a process server will make three attempts. If the server cannot reach the affected party, the server may apply to mail a copy of the summons.

What happens if someone refuses to be served in California?

It is against the law for someone to refuse service in California. If it happens, the person incurs higher charges.

Can someone else accept served papers in CA?

Yes, someone else can accept served papers under substituted services. Here, an authorized person can collect the legal papers on behalf of the person to be served.

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

Proud Member

Proud member of the California Association of Legal Support Professionals (CALSPro), National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS) and Serve-Now Network of Process Servers

National Association of Professional Process Servers   California Association of Legal Support Pros   Local Process Servers

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