Notary Public & Legal Support Network Blog

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501

A Process Server of this Network asks, "what protections do I have as a process server in Massachusetts, if any? . . . Lets say that I am pushed down a flight of stairs while serving a subpoena issued by a United States Court because a person was pissed that they got served. What laws, if any, in Massachusetts, would assist me in getting justice?"

Answer: It is a violation of Federal Law to assault and/or wound a Process Server. Since Federal Law trumps State Law, I will only write about the Federal. It does not matter if you're a constable, deputy sheriff, appointed by the court to serve process (special process server), or a disinterested process server. All that matters is the following:
  1. you are serving court related process for a United States Court (subpoenas, motions, etc.); AND
  2. you are authorized by law or court rules to serve the process; AND
  3. the person who assaulted you knows, or should know, that you are a process server (this is why most process servers carry a badge and/or a process server ID); AND
  4. while serving the process, you were the victim of an assault.

If the aforementioned elements exist, then the person who pushed you down a flight of stairs has violated Federal Law and can be punished under Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 (text of law appears below).

Additionally, the above cited Federal Law makes it a crime for a person to do the following:

  1. obstruct a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  2. resist a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  3. oppose a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  4. beat a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  5. wound a process server who is serving court related process.

I should add that the law applies to anyone who obstructs, resists, wounds, opposes, assaults, beats, or wounds a process server. It does not have to be from the person who is the recipient of the document you are serving. For instance, lets say you are at an apartment complex and someone comes running up to you and punches you in the nose. That person has violated the Federal Law.

Most process servers carry a badge or some form of process server identification. Not because we are trying to impersonate police officers, but because we want to make darn sure that an attacker [or one who resists, obstructs, etc.] had reason to know that we were acting in an official capacity. Case law regarding Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 tells us that the attacker [or one who resists, obstructs, etc.] does not have to know that we are serving process. Rather, they only need to know that a person is there for official business. Having a badge or ID hanging out in plain view implies "official business".

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Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 - Assault on Process Server
Whoever knowingly and willfully obstructs, resists, or opposes any officer of the United States, or other person duly authorized, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal or judicial writ or process of any court of the United States, or United States magistrate judge; or

Whoever assaults, beats, or wounds any officer or other person duly authorized, knowing him to be such officer, or other person so duly authorized, in serving or executing any such writ, rule, order, process, warrant, or other legal or judicial writ or process—

Shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
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5 Comments:

  • Thank you for explaining Korey. I did not know a federal law exists.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 10, 2008 at 3:19 PM  

  • I think I should add that this law protects a process server who is serving for a United States Court. A network member asked a question about a State Court in Massachusetts. This law only deals with Federal court process.

    My Network and I serve Federal court process (mostly subpoenas/summonses) frequently because we are authorized process servers for courts of the United States.

    If you are serving for a State Court, then the federal law does NOT apply. An assault and battery charge could be pressed (note: if you are a public officer the penalties are much harsher.).

    I can guarantee you though that a judge will be very unpleasant towards the assailant who assaulted/wounded a process server.

    Obviously the judge will know we are doing the court a favor in serving their process; therefore, they would most likely give the worst punishment allowed by law.

    By Blogger Korey -Founder-, At March 12, 2008 at 2:50 PM  

  • This law states any court of the United States- it does not mean a federal court- rather any court serving within the United States territory I believe. I would love to see a Federal Judge interpret this for the servers out there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 29, 2008 at 4:47 PM  

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