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Domiciliary Service and the Court Process

Domiciliary is a legal term that refers to the person who resides in a location intending to make it their principal residence. It can also refer to the location where a resident receives medical attention.

So, what is domiciliary service in the context of process serving?


Defining Domiciliary Service

Domiciliary service in the context of serving legal papers is when the proper officer leaves a subpoena in the principal home or residence of the one served. A person of suitable age and discretion living in the same domiciliary residence receives the document.

The person’s intent to reside could be proved through utility bills, voter registration, driver’s license, or the address used to receive official mail. The address is usually the person’s primary home address.

A person of suitable age and discretion who can receive a subpoena on behalf of the recipient refers to a competent adult or a teenager living in the same domicile as the one named in the document.

Each state has different guidelines on domiciliary service, such as who could serve it and who could receive it. So, it’s best to check local laws and regulations about the best way to serve legal papers.


What Is a Proper Officer?

Some documents, such as a subpoena, could only be served by a “proper officer.” This term refers to local law enforcement personnel, such as sheriffs, constables, deputies, court clerks, and process servers. Adults 18 years of age and above could also become “proper officers” as long as they are not connected to the case.

The assigned proper officer is the only one who can serve a subpoena because it is a special document that requires a person to testify in a pending criminal or civil court case. In domiciliary service, a subpoena must be served by the proper officer in person, and it must be received in person.

A subpoena must be delivered and received within a reasonable time. A person who is summoned by the court cannot ignore a subpoena, or else they will be charged with contempt of court and punished.

Lawyers use subpoenas to require the named party to testify and support their client’s case. If the person named in the subpoena fails to appear, the relevant attorney can ask the court to adjourn to another date. They may also request a witness’s arrest for failure to appear in court.


Process Servers and Domiciliary Service

Process servers could also be called proper officers in cases where domiciliary service is needed. Often the person serving the subpoena is identified as a proper officer by the attorney or the court.

Process servers can act as proper officers because they are vital members of the court process. They must deliver the summons or subpoena directly to the domicile of the person named in the document or anyone living in the same address to ensure that due process is followed.

Once the subpoena is delivered to the relevant party, the process server will file the Acknowledgement of Receipt to the court. The case can proceed with the assurance that the witness has full knowledge of when and where they are expected to appear and the type of court that the case will be litigated.




The foregoing podcast has simply been presented for informational purposes only. He or those at Lafayette Process Servers LLC, are not attorneys.  Process serving laws and rules of civil procedure are different from state to state. If you seek further information about this topic, please make sure to contact an attorney in your local area


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