As many people may know, a party to a civil or criminal action may compel you to produce information in various forms and/or appear at trial, hearing or deposition to provide testimony. Although it is often inconvenient on various levels for the 3rd party, you still have to produce and /or appear when called upon to do so by one or more of the parties.
However, the parties cannot just call you up, send you an email or a text or bump into you on the street and request this of you. They have to serve you with one of the various types of subpoenas that exist in the legal world.
Normally, valid service of a subpoena in these cases requires what is called “personal service.” This does not mean putting the paper in someone’s hand, otherwise very few would get serviced. The definition of “personal” is broad enough that I have put the paperwork under the windshield wiper of the car being driven by the intended recipient of of the subpoena while they were at a stop light.
You may be asked by a party if you would accept service as an attachment to an email or a text message. If you agree to this, the serving party may want to get confirmation from you, but the process is valid if you agree.
The upside of service by electronic means is that it saves time and money. It is fast and process servers don’t have to be hired to go out and serve you. In addition, it is far more discrete. E-service eliminates your neighbors or co-workers seeing you getting served and wondering and gossiping about why.
If one side or the other in a civil law suit, or law enforcement in a criminal case implies that service of that type may be or is insufficient, they are lying to you. They are lying for a reason. In a recent case, law enforcement told witnesses served by email that the service was insufficient or “might be insufficient.” The obvious idea was to confuse the witness regarding the need to comply.
If you agree to E-service of process, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t valid.