Question: I live in a condominium in a gated community that has a security building at the entrance. Our privacy regulations require that all guests be called in to the security system, appear on a permanent list or be announced by a telephone call from the gatehouse staff. Recently, a process server insisted that he not be announced because the person he was serving would certainly not permit him to come in or wouldn't open the door if he did. He said that preventing his entry was an obstruction of justice. Was he right?
Answer: Service of process is the procedure that gives legal notice to a person, such as a defendant, of a court or administrative body's exercise of its jurisdiction over that person. Usually, notice is furnished by delivering a set of court documents (called a "process") to the person to be served. The person who delivers these documents is a process server. The profession has some inherent risks because some individuals may become angry, even violent, when served.
On July 1, 2011, Florida Statue 48.031 (7) went into effect. An association must now allow a process server access to the community, even one with a security gate, without announcing such entry to the residents. Yes, Florida Statute 843.01 states, "Whoever shall resist, obstruct or oppose any officer ... or other person legally authorized to execute process in the execution of legal process ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree." In other words, it's unlawful to interfere and could be considered obstruction of justice.
Your association should neither hinder nor help the process server in any way. Your only action, given the rise in the number of foreclosure suits in some communities, could be to notify residents that process servers will be given access to the community without announcement, pursuant to statutory obligations and that they should not interfere in any way. As a safety precaution, association management, board members, residents or security personnel should not accompany the process server. The association should eliminate its exposure to liability for these kinds of risks by making the policy clear.
Process servers should be logged as visitors, following the regular procedures of the security staff. The security officer has the right to ask to photocopy the identification, especially if a process server is not a law enforcement officer. You could take an additional step of securing the list of the approved process servers from the court administrator's office and comparing the identification of the process server who seeks admittance to that list.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.