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How Long Does a Process Server Have to Serve Papers in Florida?

Once you’ve filed your civil case with the relevant court in Leon County, the next critical step is to serve the summons, complaint, and any other pertinent documents to the defendant(s) involved in the case. This also includes serving subpoenas to any witnesses you might be calling. Generally, locating defendants and witnesses is straightforward, but there are instances where serving someone becomes challenging, especially if they are deliberately evasive. In such scenarios, without specific deadlines, the process service could drag on indefinitely. Thankfully, in Florida, there are set time limits within which service of process must be completed.

Process Service Deadlines

Generally, the initial summons and complaint for any case must be served on the named defendant(s) within 120 days following the initial filing of the case with the clerk of court. This is preferably served in-person (known as personal service), although alternative service may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The same 120-day rule applies when summoning a witness or an expert to testify or provide evidence in court. The delivery of subpoenas, just like summonses and complaints, is ideally done in person. However, if personal service proves unsuccessful, mailing or public posting are possible alternative methods. For mail service, the subpoena must be postmarked a minimum of seven days before the scheduled court appearance. In the case of public posting, the notice should be conspicuously displayed at the recipient’s verified residence for at least five business days before their court date.

Consequences of Delayed Process Service

What are the implications if service is delayed beyond the 120-day period? In the event that service is not completed within the required timeframe from the initial filing, it’s possible for the plaintiff or defendant to file a motion for dismissal without prejudice. This allows for the possibility of refiling the case, provided the statute of limitations hasn’t expired. However, if the statute of limitations has lapsed, it could result in legal repercussions for the party responsible for ensuring timely service.

Deadline Extensions

If you can present a compelling reason to a judge for the inability to serve the defendants and/or witnesses within the 120-day limit, they may grant an extension. This is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends highly on the judge reviewing the reason for extension.

Why is There a Deadline Anyway?

Historically, the absence of a deadline for serving process led to significant delays and congested court schedules. This was primarily because cases lingered indefinitely without defendants or witnesses being served. The lack of a deadline meant a lack of urgency in completing the service. To address this, in the 1980s, the legislature in Florida enacted laws governing service of process mandating timely service. Over the years, after several amendments, the state has established the current 120-day deadline for service following the initial case filing.

Prompt and Efficient Service of Process in Tallahassee

At Accurate Serve® of Tallahassee, our commitment is to provide our clients with the fastest and most efficient process serving. If you’re under the pressure of the ticking clock after filing your case, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Call us at (941) 586-7897 or submit a work request online for dedicated and prompt service that always meets the deadline.