Imagine a stranger walking up to your front door or coming to your office with legal filings that he or she must get to you directly, and in person. If this ever happens to you, it probably means you are getting served legal process. You could feel intimidated and could feel like you're being stalked, but it's important to remember that you have a legal right to these papers as part of the due process guarantee. Whether these papers are about civil or criminal matters or issues large or small, it's important to not dismiss them.
The legal filings can be in "legalese," the jargon used by lawyers intended to clarify legal issues. They aren't meant to be easy for the uninitiated to read, but ought to be in plain enough language for you to understand basically. We would like to discuss the different legal filings you could get, but you should never skimp on consulting with a legal professional for any legal issue.
Hopefully, your experience is not a surprise and starts with a visit from a good process server like those at family law services East Troy, Wi. These servers are often hired by the legal aggressors such as plaintiffs or prosecutors, and they have to offer on-time, legally correct deliveries. They also need to respect your rights: the same timely process service, no fear of harm or danger and proper legal procedure.
Let's take a look at the major kinds of legal filings you could get from a constable:
Administrative Summons: These come from the Internal Revenue Service and help ensure that everyone pays heed to the tax laws. These administrative orders require the person being served show up before a tax examiner and offer information. This is usually the ultimate step in an IRS investigation.
Citation: These relatively minor summons are given, most often, by law enforcement, so aren't technically process serving. The most common citations, including tickets for drinking, smoking or trespassing in specific places, generally require that you show up in court or pay fines by a specified date. Signing one of these is not an admission of guilt but, instead, a promise to appear. Failure to do so can mean automatic findings of wrongdoing and growing fines.
Civil Summons: This is a type of legal filing in a civil matter that includes a precise time when you should go before the judge. It is different from a simple document informing you of the legal proceedings. These can be given by a constable in many civil cases, including family law ones.
Complaints: A complaint is a kind of legal filing, usually civil, and is generally the first one filed in a court case. If you are given one of these, it means you have been sued and are now a defendant in a case. There can also be criminal complaints, which are more serious than citations but often less serious than indictments.
Indictments: These criminal filings come after a grand jury, led by a prosecutor, gathers to consider a criminal case. A grand jury, like a regular jury, is made up of peers but the proceedings are kept confidential, even from the defendant. This special jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to charge you with a crime. Without one of these decisions, the most serious crimes cannot be argued before a judge. Indictments will be served to you or your attorney.
Petitions: This kind legal filing initiates a court case, but asks for something other than money These can also be given in cases such as those regarding child custody and probate.
Small Claims Summons: Process serving documents related to small personal debts generally come from small claims court, and they can be classified as complaints in most cases. These generally require you to start working with the creditor right away or to meet your opponent in court. If you don't, you will almost certainly have a judgment entered against you on your credit report.
Subpoenas: These fall under different rules from complaints and often have to be approved by a court clerk. They are a type of summons, but they require you to appear as a witness to give testimony, require you to present documents or require you to attend a deposition. These are often served between attorneys rather than to you in person, but ignoring them can mean contempt charges or a forfeiture of your claims and a judgment against you.
Summons: Whether civil or criminal, a summons is a call for you to show up in a court. These should always state a specific date and time to appear. If you don't show up, you can either be charged with contempt of court or can lose the civil case as a "non-responsive party".
Two U.S. Constitutional Amendments guarantee the right to due process. Many other countries also grant the right of due process and have process serving procedures. If you are suing, it's vital to your case to get process documents served properly. If you are being sued, it's just as important to follow the complaint, summons or subpoena or you could be charged with contempt. Process serving may be an unwelcome event, but it's vital under our system of adjudication.