Process servers and sheriffs are both legal professionals who serve legal documents. Their job is to make sure that the court system, lawyers, and other parties involved in a case have accurate information about a person they need to serve with papers.
Both process servers and sheriffs use different methods of service, but there are some essential differences between these two professions.
In this article, we’ll discuss these differences so you can make an informed decision about getting your documents served on time to the correct party.
What is a Process Server?
A process server is a person who delivers legal documents to parties involved in a lawsuit or some other legal proceeding. Process servers are usually independent contractors, not employees of the court. They can be either individuals or companies.
Process servers are hired by attorneys to deliver documents and serve them on other attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and third parties involved in civil cases.
For example, our team works with attorneys, courts, law enforcement, government agencies, and some business clients.
What is a Sheriff?
A sheriff is a person who is charged with the execution of legal documents, such as subpoenas, evictions, and court orders. A Sheriff’s Office is a government agency that provides law enforcement services within their district or county.
While some sheriffs serve papers, they have many other responsibilities concerning maintaining the peace in a given regional area, county, or other designation.
Texas is famous for its sheriffs because of the nostalgia for the great West and popular TV shows/movies.
What is a Process Server vs Sheriff Difference?
It’s important to know the difference between a sheriff vs process server. The significant thing that separates the two entities involves where they can go.
Both the process server and sheriff can visit a home, work, or other property. However, a sheriff has the legal authority to enter spaces that would otherwise be restricted to process servers.
Here are some details:
What are the Methods of Service?
A process server will provide delivery in hand, by mail, notice, and digital communication based on the court’s discretion.
A sheriff is a law enforcement officer. They can go on properties with no trespassing signs or other restricted areas where a process server is not allowed.
Is there a Cost Difference?
You may have heard that process servers are paid by the hour, and sheriffs are paid by the job. While this is partly true, there are other factors to consider.
The cost tends to be similar, but the value is exceptionally different. With a process server, you get far more quality customer service because that is the sole responsibility of the team you are hiring.
A sheriff has way more to do in a day across various responsibilities, which means they may not focus as much on your needs as a process server will.
Is there a Timing Difference?
If you’re looking for speed, process servers can be the answer. Process servers are fast and flexible—they’re available 24/7. They have discretion when serving papers at night or on weekends.
On the other hand, sheriffs may take longer to get out there. In some jurisdictions, they need court orders before they can do anything.
Why Would a Sheriff Serve Papers?
The sheriff is a sworn officer of the court who can serve papers to anyone. A sheriff can also serve documents to people not at home (i.e., in jail, at a business, etc.).
The same applies to a process server, except on restricted property. A sheriff is introduced for several reasons. Maybe you want a sheriff to serve papers because there is a physical risk for the process, or the person being served has a history of conflict.
It could also relate to the severity of the legal case. Some cases are far more sensitive than others, and a court will want a sheriff to handle the situation instead of a process server – though this is rare.
Why Pick a Process Server Instead of a Sheriff?
1 – Faster Delivery
Process servers focus on completing their jobs as efficiently as possible. Many, like our team, offer service 24/7 (where legally applicable) and often with the first attempt the same day as ordered, or at least within the first 24 hours.
A sheriff or constable may take significantly longer based on their other duties for the day or week.
2 – Higher Priority
Unlike the sheriff, process servers are often more flexible and can work around your schedule. You may be able to arrange a time that is convenient for you, while deputies often have to work specific hours. A sheriff’s office may also be closed on weekends and holidays.
This flexibility allows process servers to serve your documents even if they receive them when the agency is closed or when no one is there. They can reach the target party at any time of day instead of inside specific windows when they are “clocked in” to a sheriff’s job.
3 – Better Communication
Process servers are better at communicating. They’re more likely to share with the client and the person being served, as well as the sheriff or court.
4 – Specialized Attention to Details
A process server’s job is to serve papers promptly, with expert attention to detail. Process servers have specialized training and experience. They are experts at serving papers in the most efficient way possible, ensuring that your case will be handled with care by professionals who know what they’re doing.
5 – Knowledge of Law Concerning Process Serving
A process server knows what laws apply, how they apply, and all of the legal information regarding the serving process.
This is much different with a process server vs. a sheriff who has to understand the laws concerning many other topics like drugs, violence, property ownership, automobiles, and more. That is a ton of information to remember compared to the niche operations of a process server.
6 – Higher Success Rate
The success rate is an essential factor in determining whether or not you should hire a process server. The success rate of a process server is the percentage of times they can deliver your court documents successfully.
A sheriff’s office isn’t as concerned with success as much as attempts. However, process servers will happily discuss their success rates because that is a leading method customers use when picking one company over another.
Does a Sheriff Serve Child Support Papers?
In some states, separate child support courts can handle the same kinds of cases as a regular court. In other states—and in our experience—the Sheriff’s Office serves these sorts of documents because they may be sensitive.
Again, it depends on how your county or municipality handles its service process and how your particular judge has ordered things to happen.
In general, though: yes! If you have a child support case, a sheriff can serve all paperwork related to it since they’re specially trained for such work.
Does the Sheriff Serve Papers on the Weekend?
It depends on the state. In Texas and around Houston, service tends to only happen on Sundays if there is a specific court order.
It is important to remember that a Sheriff’s office may have fewer staff members available during the weekends and holidays because of high crime or vacations. This is another reason to go with a process server team instead.
If you’re confused by the question of do constables serve papers on weekends, a constable is elected, and there may be multiple constables in a precinct.
A sheriff is elected as well, but there is only one per county (although there are many deputies).
How Long Does a Constable Have to Serve Someone?
The time limit varies depending on what type of document you’re trying to serve and who you’re trying to serve it on. If you want to know more about how long it takes someone else in your state or county, check out your state’s official website.
In most cases, service will be requested as soon as possible with a window of 1-20 days from the date of issuance.
There are a lot of differences between Process Servers vs Sheriffs. In some areas, the roles have merged. Process servers can provide you with more flexibility in getting your documents served. Your choice should be based on your needs and budget.
The best option is to work with a process server team because they will provide faster, more detailed service with active communication to show they have successfully delivered on time to the correct target party.