FLORIDA RULES AND CIVIL PROCEDURE

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Does a process server have to be licensed in Florida?
Process servers in Florida must be appointed by a Sheriff with some exceptions. The requirements and exceptions are listed under the 48.021 Process; by whom served, 48.27 Certified process servers and 48.29 Certification of process servers 

Florida Service of Process Laws Note
Resisting a person legally authorized to execute process in the execution of legal process with violence is a 3rd degree felony in the State of Florida. Resisting without violence is considered a 1st degree misdomeaner. [2000 Florida Statutes: Title XLVI – Crimes. Chapter 843 Obstructing Justice: 843.01 and 843.02]

Rule 1.070. Process

(a) Summons; Issuance. Upon the commencement of the action, summons or other process authorized by law shall be issued forthwith by the clerk or judge under the clerk’s or the judge’s signature and the seal of the court and delivered for service without praecipe.

(b) Service; By Whom Made. Service of process may be made by an officer authorized by law to serve process, but the court may appoint any competent person not interested in the action to serve the process. When so appointed, the person serving process shall make proof of service by affidavit promptly and in any event within the time during which the person served must respond to the process. Failure to make proof of service shall not affect the validity of the service. When any process is returned not executed or returned improperly executed for any defendant the party causing its issuance shall be entitled to such additional process against the unserved party as is required to effect service.

(c) Service; Numerous Defendants. If there is more than 1 defendant, the clerk or judge shall issue as many writs of process against the several defendants as may be directed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney.

(d) Service by Publication. Service of process by publication may be made as provided by statute.

(e) Copies of Initial Pleading for Persons Served. At the time of personal service of process a copy of the initial pleading shall be delivered to the party upon whom service is made. The date and hour of service shall be endorsed on the original process and all copies of it by the person making the service. The party seeking to effect personal service shall furnish the person making service with the necessary copies. When the service is made by publication, copies of the initial pleadings shall be furnished to the clerk and mailed by the clerk with the notice of action to all parties whose addresses are stated in the initial pleading or sworn statement.

(f) Service of Orders. If personal service of a court order is to be made, the original order shall be filed with the clerk, who shall certify or verify a copy of it without charge. The person making service shall use the certified copy instead of the original order in the same manner as original process in making service.

(g) Fees; Service of Pleadings. The statutory compensation for making service shall not be increased by the service on the defendant unless good cause for the failure is shown.

(4) A defendant who, before being served with process, timely returns waiver so requested is not required to respond to the complaint until 60 days after the date the defendant received the request for waiver of service. For purposes of computing any time prescribed or allowed by these rules, service of process shall be deemed effected 20 days before the time required to respond to the complaint.

(5) When the plaintiff files a waiver of service with the court, the action shall proceed, except as provided in subdivision (4) above, as if a summons and complaint had been served at the time of filing the waiver, and no further proof of service shall be required.

(j) Summons; Time Limit. If service of the initial process and initial pleading is not made upon a defendant within 120 days after filing of the initial pleading and the party on whose behalf service is required does not show good cause why service was not made within that time, the action shall be dismissed without prejudice or that defendant dropped as a party on the court’s own initiative after notice or on motion. A dismissal under this subdivision shall not be considered a voluntary dismissal or operate as an adjudication on the merits under rule 1.420(a)(1).
Amended September 29, 1971, effective December 13, 1971; July 26, 1972, effective January 1, 1973; October 9, 1980, effective January 1, 1981; October 6 and December 30, 1988, effective January 1, 1989; July 16, 1992, effective January 1, 1993; October 31, 1996, effective January 1, 1997.

Rule 1.410. Subpoena

(a) Subpoena Generally. Subpoenas for testimony before the court, subpoenas for production of tangible evidence, and subpoenas for taking depositions may be issued by the clerk of court or by any attorney of record in an action.

(b) Subpoena for Testimony Before the Court.

(1) Every subpoena for testimony before the court shall be issued by an attorney of record in an action or by the clerk under the seal of the court and shall state the name of the court and the title of the action and shall command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at a time and place specified in it.

(2) On oral request of an attorney or party and without praecipe, the clerk shall issue a subpoena for testimony before the court or a subpoena for the production of documentary evidence before the court signed and sealed but otherwise in blank, both as to the title of the action and the name of the person to whom it is directed, and the subpoena shall be filled in before service by the attorney or party.

(c) For Production of Documentary Evidence. A subpoena may also command the person to whom it is directed to produce the books, papers, documents, or tangible things designated therein, but the court, upon motion made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, may (1) quash or modify the subpoena if it is unreasonable and oppressive, or (2) condition denial of the motion upon the advancement by the person in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or tangible things. A party seeking production of evidence at trial which would be subject to a subpoena may compel such production by serving a notice to produce such evidence on an adverse party as provided in rule 1.080 (b). Such notice shall have the same effect and be subject to the same limitations as a subpoena served on the party.

(d) Service. A subpoena may be served by any person authorized by law to serve process or by any other person who is not a party and who is not less than 18 years of age. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein shall be made as provided by law. Proof of such service shall be made by affidavit of the person making service if not served by an officer authorized by law to do so.

(e) Subpoena for Taking Depositions.

(1) Filing a notice to take a deposition as provided in rule 1.310 (b) or 1.320 (a) with a certificate of service on it showing service on all parties to the action constitutes an authorization for the issuance of subpoenas for the persons named or described in the notice by the clerk of the court in which the action is pending or by an attorney of record in the action. The subpoena may command the person to whom it is directed to produce designated books, papers, documents, or tangible things that constitute or contain evidence relating to any of the matters within the scope of the examination permitted by rule 1.280 (b), but in that event the subpoena will be subject to the provisions of rule 1.280 (c) and subdivision (c) of this rule. Within 10 days after its service, or on or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance if the time is less than 10 days after service, the person to whom the subpoena is directed may serve written objection to inspection or copying of any of the designated materials. If objection is made, the party serving the subpoena shall not be entitled to inspect and copy the materials except pursuant to an order of the court from which the subpoena was issued. If objection has been made, the party serving the subpoena may move for an order at any time before or during the taking of the deposition upon notice to the deponent.

(2) A person may be required to attend an examination only in the county wherein the person resides or is employed or transacts business in person or at such other convenient place as may be fixed by an order of court.

(f) Contempt. Failure by any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon that person may be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena issued.

(g) Depositions Before Commissioners Appointed in This State by Courts of Other States, Subpoena Powers; etc. When any person authorized by the laws of Florida to administer oaths is appointed by a court of record of any other state, jurisdiction, or government as commissioner to take the testimony of any named witness within this state, that witness may be compelled to attend and testify before that commissioner by witness subpoena issued by the clerk of any circuit court at the instance of that commissioner or by other process or proceedings in the same manner as if that commissioner had been appointed by a court of this state; provided that no document or paper writing shall be compulsorily annexed as an exhibit to such deposition or otherwise permanently removed from the possession of the witness producing it, but in lieu thereof a photostatic copy may be annexed to and transmitted with such executed commission to the court of issuance.
Amended June 19, 1968, effective October 1, 1968; July 26, 1972, effective January 1, 1973; December 13, 1976, effective January 1, 1977; October 9, 1980, effective January 1, 1981; July 16, 1992, effective January 1, 1993; October 31, 1996, effective January 1, 1997.

Florida Statutes

Title VI – Civil Practice and Procedure

(a) Summons; Issuance. Upon the commencement of the action, summons or other process authorized by law shall be issued forthwith by the clerk or judge under the clerk’s or the judge’s signature and the seal of the court and delivered for service without praecipe.

48.021 Process; by whom served.

(1) All process shall be served by the sheriff of the county where the person to be served is found, except initial nonenforceable civil process may be served by a special process server appointed by the sheriff as provided for in this section or by a certified process server as provided for in ss. 48.25-48.31. Witness subpoenas may be served by any person authorized by rules of procedure.

(2) (a) The sheriff of each county may, in his or her discretion, establish an approved list of natural persons designated as special process servers. The sheriff shall add to such list the names of those natural persons who have met the requirements provided for in this section. Each natural person whose name has been added to the approved list is subject to annual recertification and reappointment by the sheriff. The sheriff shall prescribe an appropriate form for application for appointment. A reasonable fee for the processing of the application shall be charged.

(b) A person applying to become a special process server shall:
1. Be at least 18 years of age.
2. Have no mental or legal disability.
3. Be a permanent resident of the state.
4. Submit to a background investigation that includes the right to obtain and review the criminal record of the applicant.
5. Obtain and file with the application a certificate of good conduct that specifies there is no pending criminal case against the applicant and that there is no record of any felony conviction, nor a record of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or dishonesty, with respect to the applicant within the past 5 years.
6. Submit to an examination testing the applicant’s knowledge of the laws and rules regarding the service of process. The content of the examination and the passing grade thereon, and the frequency and the location at which the examination is offered must be prescribed by the sheriff. The examination must be offered at least once annually.
7. Take an oath that the applicant will honestly, diligently, and faithfully exercise the duties of a special process server.

(c) The sheriff may prescribe additional rules and requirements directly related to subparagraphs (b)1.-7. regarding the eligibility of a person to become a special process server or to have his or her name maintained on the list of special process servers.

(d) An applicant who completes the requirements of this section must be designated as a special process server provided that the sheriff of the county has determined that the appointment of special process servers is necessary or desirable. Each special process server must be issued an identification card bearing his or her identification number, printed name, signature and photograph, and an expiration date. Each identification card must be renewable annually upon proof of good standing.

(e) The sheriff shall have the discretion to revoke an appointment at any time that he or she determines a special process server is not fully and properly discharging the duties as a special process server. The sheriff shall institute a program to determine whether the special process servers appointed as provided for in this section are faithfully discharging their duties pursuant to such appointment, and a reasonable fee may be charged for the costs of administering such program.

(3) A special process server appointed in accordance with this section shall be authorized to serve process in only the county in which the sheriff who appointed him or her resides and may charge a reasonable fee for his or her services.

(4) Any special process server shall be disinterested in any process he or she serves; and if the special process server willfully and knowingly executes a false return of service or otherwise violates the oath of office, he or she shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided for in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, and shall be permanently barred from serving process in Florida.
History. – s. 16, July 22, 1845; s. 1, ch. 3721, 1887; RS 1014, 1246; GS 1401; RGS 2598; s. 1, ch. 9318, 1923; CGL 4238; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 12, ch. 73-334; s. 1, ch. 76-263; s. 2, ch. 79-396; s. 1, ch. 81-266; s. 1, ch. 88-135; s. 2, ch. 91-306; s. 268, ch. 95-147; s. 16, ch. 98-34.
Note. – Section 46, ch. 98-34, provides that “[t]he provisions of this act do not affect a cause of action that accrued before [July 1, 1998].” Note. – Former s. 47.12.

48.031 Service of process generally; service of witness subpoenas.

(1) (a) Service of original process is made by delivering a copy of it to the person to be served with a copy of the complaint, petition, or other initial pleading or paper or by leaving the copies at his or her usual place of abode with any person residing therein who is 15 years of age or older and informing the person of their contents. Minors who are or have been married shall be served as provided in this section.

(b) Employers, when contacted by an individual authorized to make service of process, shall permit the authorized individual to make service on employees in a private area designated by the employer.

(2) (a) Substitute service may be made on the spouse of the person to be served at any place in the county, if the cause of action is not an adversary proceeding between the spouse and the person to be served, if the spouse requests such service, and if the spouse and person to be served are residing together in the same dwelling.

(b) Substitute service may be made on an individual doing business as a sole proprietorship at his or her place of business, during regular business hours, by serving the manager of the business if one or more attempts to serve the owner have been made at the place of business.

(3) The service of process of witness subpoenas, whether in criminal cases or civil actions, is to be made as provided in subsection (1). However, service of a subpoena on a witness in a criminal traffic case, a misdemeanor case, or a second degree or third degree felony may be made by certified United States mail directed to the witness at the last known address, and such service must be mailed at least 7 days prior to the date of the witness’s required appearance.

(4) (a) Service of a criminal witness subpoena upon a law enforcement officer or upon any federal, state, or municipal employee called to testify in an official capacity in a criminal case may be made as provided in subsection (1) or by delivery to a designated supervisory or administrative employee at the witness’s place of employment if the agency head or highest ranking official at the witness’s place of employment has designated such employee to accept such service. However, no such designated employee is required to accept service:
1. For a witness who is no longer employed by the agency at that place of employment;
2. If the witness is not scheduled to work prior to the date the witness is required to appear; or
3. If the appearance date is less than 5 days from the date of service.
The agency head or highest ranking official at the witness’s place of employment may determine the days of the week and the hours that service may be made at the witness’s place of employment.

(b) Service may also be made in accordance with subsection (3) provided that the person who requests the issuance of the criminal witness subpoena shall be responsible for mailing the subpoena in accordance with that subsection and for making the proper return of service to the court.
History. – s. 5, Nov. 23, 1828; RS 1015; GS 1402; RGS 2599; CGL 4246; s. 6, ch. 29737, 1955; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 1, ch. 75-34; s. 3, ch. 79-396; s. 3, ch. 82-118; s. 1, ch. 84-339; s. 7, ch. 85-80; s. 2, ch. 87-405; s. 6, ch. 93-208; s. 269, ch. 95-147; s. 1, ch. 95-172; s. 1, ch. 98-410.
Note. – Former s. 47.13.

48.041 Service on minor.

(1) Process against a minor who has never been married shall be served:

(a) By serving a parent or guardian of the minor as provided for in s. 48.031 or, when there is a legal guardian appointed for the minor, by serving the guardian as provided for in s. 48.031.

(b) By serving the guardian ad litem or other person, if one is appointed by the court to represent the minor. Service on the guardian ad litem is unnecessary when he or she appears voluntarily or when the court orders the appearance without service of process on him or her.

(2) In all cases heretofore adjudicated in which process was served on a minor as prescribed by any law heretofore existing, the service was lawfully made, and no proceeding shall be declared irregular or illegal if a guardian ad litem appeared for the minor.
History. – ss. 1, 2, ch. 7853, 1919; CGL 4273, 4274; s. 1, ch. 19175, 1939; CGL 1940 Supp. 4274(13); s. 2, ch. 29737, 1955; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 1, ch. 84-176; s. 270, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former ss. 47.23-47.25.

48.042 Service on incompetent.

(1) Process against an incompetent shall be served:

(a) By serving two copies of the process to the person who has care or custody of the incompetent or, when there is a legal guardian appointed for the incompetent, by serving the guardian as provided in s. 48.031.

(b) By serving the guardian ad litem or other person, if one is appointed by the court to represent the incompetent. Service on the guardian ad litem is unnecessary when he or she appears voluntarily or when the court orders the appearance without service of process on him or her.

(2) In all cases heretofore adjudicated in which process was served on an incompetent as prescribed by any law heretofore existing, the service was lawfully made, and no proceeding shall be declared irregular or illegal if a guardian ad litem appeared for the incompetent.
History. – s. 2, ch. 84-176; s. 271, ch. 95-147.

48.051 Service on state prisoners.

Process against a state prisoner shall be served on the prisoner.
History. – s. 30, ch. 3883, 1889; RS 3043; GS 4124; RGS 6243; CGL 8580; s. 1, ch. 21992, 1943; s. 1, ch. 25041, 1949; s. 44, ch. 57-121; s. 4, ch. 67-254; ss. 19, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 13, ch. 71-355.
Note. – Former s. 47.26.

48.061 Service on partnerships and limited partnerships.

(1) Process against a partnership shall be served on any partner and is as valid as if served on each individual partner. If a partner is not available during regular business hours to accept service on behalf of the partnership, he or she may designate an employee to accept such service. After one attempt to serve a partner or designated employee has been made, process may be served on the person in charge of the partnership during regular business hours. After service on any partner, plaintiff may proceed to judgment and execution against that partner and the assets of the partnership. After service on a designated employee or other person in charge, plaintiff may proceed to judgment and execution against the partnership assets but not against the individual assets of any partner.

(2) Process against a domestic limited partnership may be served on any general partner or on the agent for service of process specified in its certificate of limited partnership or in its certificate as amended or restated and is as valid as if served on each individual member of the partnership. After service on a general partner or the agent, the plaintiff may proceed to judgment and execution against the limited partnership and all of the general partners individually. If a general partner cannot be found in this state and service cannot be made on an agent because of failure to maintain such an agent or because the agent cannot be found or served with the exercise of reasonable diligence, service of process may be effected by service upon the Secretary of State as agent of the limited partnership as provided for in s. 48.181. Service of process may be made under ss. 48.071 and 48.21 on limited partnerships.

(3) Process against a foreign limited partnership may be served on any general partner found in the state or on any agent for service of process specified in its application for registration and is as valid as if served on each individual member of the partnership. If a general partner cannot be found in this state and an agent for service of process has not been appointed or, if appointed, the agent’s authority has been revoked or the agent cannot be found or served with the exercise of reasonable diligence, service of process may be effected by service upon the Secretary of State as agent of the limited partnership as provided for in s. 48.181, or process may be served as provided in ss. 48.071 and 48.21.
History. – s. 13, Nov. 23, 1828; RS 1017; GS 1404; RGS 2601; CGL 4248; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 74, ch. 86-263; s. 3, ch. 87-405; s. 272, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.15.

48.071 Service on agents of nonresidents doing business in the state.

When any natural person or partnership not residing or having a principal place of business in this state engages in business in this state, process may be served on the person who is in charge of any business in which the defendant is engaged within this state at the time of service, including agents soliciting orders for goods, wares, merchandise or services. Any process so served is as valid as if served personally on the nonresident person or partnership engaging in business in this state in any action against the person or partnership arising out of such business. A copy of such process with a notice of service on the person in charge of such business shall be sent forthwith to the nonresident person or partnership by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. An affidavit of compliance with this section shall be filed before the return day or within such further time as the court may allow.
History. – s. 1, ch. 59-280; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 273, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.161.

48.081 Service on corporation.–

(1) Process against any private corporation, domestic or foreign, may be served:

(a) On the president or vice president, or other head of the corporation;

(b) In the absence of any person described in paragraph (a), on the cashier, treasurer, secretary, or general manager;

(c) In the absence of any person described in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), on any director; or

(d) In the absence of any person described in paragraph (a), paragraph (b), or paragraph (c), on any officer or business agent residing in the state.

(2) If a foreign corporation has none of the foregoing officers or agents in this state, service may be made on any agent transacting business for it in this state.

(3) As an alternative to all of the foregoing, process may be served on the agent designated by the corporation under s. 48.091. However, if service cannot be made on a registered agent because of failure to comply with s. 48.091, service of process shall be permitted on any employee at the corporation’s place of business.

(4) This section does not apply to service of process on insurance companies.

(5) When a corporation engages in substantial and not isolated activities within this state, or has a business office within the state and is actually engaged in the transaction of business therefrom, service upon any officer or business agent while on corporate business within this state may personally be made, pursuant to this section, and it is not necessary in such case that the action, suit, or proceeding against the corporation shall have arisen out of any transaction or operation connected with or incidental to the business being transacted within the state.
History. – s. 8, Nov. 21, 1829; s. 2, Feb. 11, 1834; s. 1, ch. 3590, 1885; RS 1019; GS 1406; s. 1, ch. 6908, 1915; s. 1, ch. 7752, 1918; RGS 2604; CGL 4251; s. 1, ch. 57-97; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 59-46; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 1, ch. 67-399; s. 6, ch. 79-396; s. 7, ch. 83-216; s. 1, ch. 84-2.
Note. – Former s. 47.17.

48.101 Service on dissolved corporations.

When any natural person or partnership not residing or having a principal place of business in this state engages in business in this state, process may be served on the person who is in charge of any business in which the defendant is engaged within this state at the time of service, including agents soliciting orders for goods, wares, merchandise or services. Any process so served is as valid as if served personally on the nonresident person or partnership engaging in business in this state in any action against the person or partnership arising out of such business. A copy of such process with a notice of service on the person in charge of such business shall be sent forthwith to the nonresident person or partnership by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. An affidavit of compliance with this section shall be filed before the return day or within such further time as the court may allow.
History. – s. 1, ch. 59-280; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 273, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.161.

48.111 Service on public agencies and officers.

(1) Process against any municipal corporation, agency, board, or commission, department, or subdivision of the state or any county which has a governing board, council, or commission or which is a body corporate shall be served:

(a) On the president, mayor, chair, or other head thereof; and in his or her absence;

(b) On the vice president, vice mayor, or vice chair, or in the absence of all of the above;

(c) On any member of the governing board, council, or commission.

(2) Process against any public agency, board, commission, or department not a body corporate or having a governing board or commission shall be served on the public officer being sued or the chief executive officer of the agency, board, commission, or department.

(3) In any suit in which the Department of Revenue or its successor is a party, process against the department shall be served on the executive director of the department. This procedure is to be in lieu of any other provision of general law, and shall designate said department to be the only state agency or department to be so served.
History. – ss. 1, 2, ch. 3242, 1881; RS 581, 1021, 1022; GS 774, 1408, 1409; RGS 1494, 2606, 2607; CGL 2203, 4253, 4254; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 1, ch. 73-73; s. 8, ch. 83-216; s. 274, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former ss. 47.20, 47.21.

48.121 Service on the state.

When the state has consented to be sued, process against the state shall be served on the state attorney or an assistant state attorney for the judicial circuit within which the action is brought and by sending two copies of the process by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General. The state may serve motions or pleadings within 40 days after service is made.
History. – s. 2, ch. 29724, 1955; s. 4, ch. 67-254.
Note. – Former s. 69.18.

48.131 Service on alien property custodian.

In every action or proceeding in any court or before any administrative board involving real, personal, or mixed property, or any interest therein, when service of process or notice is required or directed to be made upon any person, firm or corporation located, or believed to be located, within any country or territory in the possession of or under the control of any country between which and the United States a state of war exists, in addition to the giving of the notice or service of process, a copy of the notice or process shall be sent by registered or certified mail to the alien property custodian, addressed to him or her at Washington, District of Columbia; but failure to mail a copy of the notice or process to the alien property custodian does not invalidate the action or proceeding. History. – s. 1, ch. 22074, 1943; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 275, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.51.

48.141 Service on labor unions.

Process against labor organizations shall be served on the president or other officer, business agent, manager or person in charge of the business of such labor organization.
History. – s. 4, ch. 67-254.

48.151 Service on statutory agents for certain persons.

(1) When any law designates a public officer, board, agency, or commission as the agent for service of process on any person, firm, or corporation, service of process thereunder shall be made by leaving two copies of the process with the public officer, board, agency, or commission or in the office thereof, or by mailing said copies to the public officer, board, agency, or commission. The public officer, board, agency, or commission so served shall file one copy in his or her or its records and promptly send the other copy, by registered or certified mail, to the person to be served as shown by his or her or its records. Proof of service on the public officer, board, agency, or commission shall be by a notice accepting the process which shall be issued by the public officer, board, agency, or commission promptly after service and filed in the court issuing the process. The notice accepting service shall state the date upon which the copy of the process was mailed by the public officer, board, agency, or commission to the person being served and the time for pleading prescribed by the rules of procedure shall run from this date. The service is valid service for all purposes on the person for whom the public officer, board, agency, or commission is statutory agent for service of process.

(2) This section does not apply to substituted service of process on nonresidents.

(3) The Insurance Commissioner and Treasurer or his or her assistant or deputy or another person in charge of the office is the agent for service of process on all insurers applying for authority to transact insurance in this state, all licensed nonresident insurance agents, all nonresident disability insurance agents licensed by the Department of Insurance pursuant to s. 626.835, any unauthorized insurer under s. 626.906 or s. 626.937, domestic reciprocal insurers, fraternal benefit societies under chapter 632, automobile inspection and warranty associations, ambulance service associations, and persons required to file statements under s. 628.461.

(4) The Comptroller is the agent for service of process for any issuer as defined in s. 517.021, or any dealer, investment adviser, or associated person registered with the Department of Banking and Finance, for any violation of any provision of chapter 517.

(5) The Secretary of State is the agent for service of process for any retailer, dealer or vendor who has failed to designate an agent for service of process as required under s. 212.151 for violations of chapter 212.
History. – s. 4, ch. 67-254; ss. 10, 12, 13, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 14, ch. 71-355; s. 29, ch. 71-377; s. 2, ch. 76-100; s. 16, ch. 79-164; s. 4, ch. 83-215; s. 1, ch. 87-316; s. 10, ch. 90-248; s. 276, ch. 95-147.

48.161 Method of substituted service on nonresident.

(1) When authorized by law, substituted service of process on a nonresident or a person who conceals his or her whereabouts by serving a public officer designated by law shall be made by leaving a copy of the process with a fee of $8.75 with the public officer or in his or her office or by mailing the copies by certified mail to the public officer with the fee. The service is sufficient service on a defendant who has appointed a public officer as his or her agent for the service of process. Notice of service and a copy of the process shall be sent forthwith by registered or certified mail by the plaintiff or his or her attorney to the defendant, and the defendant’s return receipt and the affidavit of the plaintiff or his or her attorney of compliance shall be filed on or before the return day of the process or within such time as the court allows, or the notice and copy shall be served on the defendant, if found within the state, by an officer authorized to serve legal process, or if found without the state, by a sheriff or a deputy sheriff of any county of this state or any duly constituted public officer qualified to serve like process in the state or jurisdiction where the defendant is found. The officer’s return showing service shall be filed on or before the return day of the process or within such time as the court allows. The fee paid by the plaintiff to the public officer shall be taxed as cost if he or she prevails in the action. The public officer shall keep a record of all process served on him or her showing the day and hour of service.

(2) If any person on whom service of process is authorized under subsection (1) dies, service may be made on his or her administrator, executor, curator, or personal representative in the same manner.

(3) This section does not apply to persons on whom service is authorized under s. 48.151.

(4) The public officer may designate some other person in his or her office to accept service.
History. – ss. 2, 4, ch. 17254, 1935; CGL 1936 Supp. 4274 (8), (10); s. 1, ch. 59-382; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 4, ch. 71-114; s. 1, ch. 71-308; s. 57, ch. 90-132; s. 277, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former ss. 47.30, 47.32.

48.171 Service on nonresident motor vehicle owners, etc.

History. – s. 1, ch. 17254, 1935; CGL 1936 Supp. 4274(7); ss. 1, 2, ch. 25003, 1949; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 278, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.29.

48.181 Service on nonresident engaging in business in state.

(1) The acceptance by any person or persons, individually or associated together as a copartnership or any other form or type of association, who are residents of any other state or country, and all foreign corporations, and any person who is a resident of the state and who subsequently becomes a nonresident of the state or conceals his or her whereabouts, of the privilege extended by law to nonresidents and others to operate, conduct, engage in, or carry on a business or business venture in the state, or to have an office or agency in the state, constitutes an appointment by the persons and foreign corporations of the Secretary of State of the state as their agent on whom all process in any action or proceeding against them, or any of them, arising out of any transaction or operation connected with or incidental to the business or business venture may be served. The acceptance of the privilege is signification of the agreement of the persons and foreign corporations that the process against them which is so served is of the same validity as if served personally on the persons or foreign corporations.

(2) If a foreign corporation has a resident agent or officer in the state, process shall be served on the resident agent or officer.

(3) Any person, firm, or corporation which sells, consigns, or leases by any means whatsoever tangible or intangible personal property, through brokers, jobbers, wholesalers, or distributors to any person, firm, or corporation in this state is conclusively presumed to be both engaged in substantial and not isolated activities within this state and operating, conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business or business venture in this state.
History. – s. 1, ch. 6224, 1911; RGS 2602; CGL 4249; s. 1, ch. 26657, 1951; s. 1, ch. 57-747; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 2, ch. 84-2; s. 279, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.16.

48.183 Service of process in action for possession of premises.

(1) In an action for possession of residential premises or nonresidential premises, if the tenant cannot be found in the county or there is no person 15 years of age or older residing at the tenant’s usual place of abode in the county after at least two attempts to obtain service as provided above in this subsection, summons may be served by attaching a copy to a conspicuous place on the property described in the complaint or summons. The minimum time delay between the two attempts to obtain service shall be 6 hours. Nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting service of process on a tenant as is otherwise provided on defendants in civil cases.

(2) If a landlord causes or anticipates causing a defendant to be served with a summons and complaint solely by attaching them to some conspicuous place on the property described in the complaint or summons, the landlord shall provide the clerk of the court with an additional copy of the complaint and a prestamped envelope addressed to the defendant at the premises involved in the proceeding. The clerk of the court shall immediately mail the copy of the summons and complaint by first-class mail, note the fact of mailing in the docket, and file a certificate in the court file of the fact and date of mailing. Service shall be effective on the date of posting or mailing, whichever occurs later, and at least 5 days must elapse from the date of service before a judgment for final removal of the defendant may be entered.
History. – s. 4, ch. 73-330; s. 1, ch. 75-34; s. 1, ch. 83-39; s. 2, ch. 84-339; s. 4, ch. 87-405; s. 1, ch. 88-379; s. 3, ch. 94-170; s. 2, ch. 98-410.

48.19 Service on nonresidents operating aircraft or watercraft in the state.

The operation, navigation, or maintenance by a nonresident of an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state, either in person or through others, and the acceptance thereby by the nonresident of the protection of the laws of this state for the aircraft or watercraft, or the operation, navigation, or maintenance by a nonresident of an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state, either in person or through others, other than under the laws of the state, or any person who is a resident of the state and who subsequently becomes a nonresident or conceals his or her whereabouts, constitutes an appointment by the nonresident of the Secretary of State as the agent of the nonresident or concealed person on whom all process may be served in any action or proceeding against the nonresident or concealed person growing out of any accident or collision in which the nonresident or concealed person may be involved while, either in person or through others, operating, navigating, or maintaining an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state. The acceptance by operation, navigation, or maintenance in the state of the aircraft or watercraft is signification of the nonresident’s or concealed person’s agreement that process against him or her so served shall be of the same effect as if served on him or her personally.
History. – s. 1, ch. 59-148; s. 1, ch. 65-118; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 2, ch. 70-90; s. 280, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.162.

48.193 Acts subjecting person to jurisdiction of courts of state.

(1) Any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state, who personally or through an agent does any of the acts enumerated in this subsection thereby submits himself or herself and, if he or she is a natural person, his or her personal representative to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state for any cause of action arising from the doing of any of the following acts:

(a) Operating, conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business or business venture in this state or having an office or agency in this state.

(b) Committing a tortious act within this state.

(c) Owning, using, possessing, or holding a mortgage or other lien on any real property within this state.

(d) Contracting to insure any person, property, or risk located within this state at the time of contracting.

(e) With respect to a proceeding for alimony, child support, or division of property in connection with an action to dissolve a marriage or with respect to an independent action for support of dependents, maintaining a matrimonial domicile in this state at the time of the commencement of this action or, if the defendant resided in this state preceding the commencement of the action, whether cohabiting during that time or not. This paragraph does not change the residency requirement for filing an action for dissolution of marriage.

(f) Causing injury to persons or property within this state arising out of an act or omission by the defendant outside this state, if, at or about the time of the injury, either:
1. The defendant was engaged in solicitation or service activities within this state; or
2. Products, materials, or things processed, serviced, or manufactured by the defendant anywhere were used or consumed within this state in the ordinary course of commerce, trade, or use.

(g) Breaching a contract in this state by failing to perform acts required by the contract to be performed in this state.

(h) With respect to a proceeding for paternity, engaging in the act of sexual intercourse within this state with respect to which a child may have been conceived.

(2) A defendant who is engaged in substantial and not isolated activity within this state, whether such activity is wholly interstate, intrastate, or otherwise, is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state, whether or not the claim arises from that activity.

(3) Service of process upon any person who is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as provided in this section may be made by personally serving the process upon the defendant outside this state, as provided in s. 48.194. The service shall have the same effect as if it had been personally served within this state.

(4) If a defendant in his or her pleadings demands affirmative relief on causes of action unrelated to the transaction forming the basis of the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant shall thereafter in that action be subject to the jurisdiction of the court for any cause of action, regardless of its basis, which the plaintiff may by amendment assert against the defendant.

(5) Nothing contained in this section limits or affects the right to serve any process in any other manner now or hereinafter provided by law.
History. – s. 1, ch. 73-179; s. 3, ch. 84-2; s. 3, ch. 88-176; s. 3, ch. 93-250; s. 281, ch. 95-147.

48.194 Personal service outside state.

(1) Except as otherwise provided herein, service of process on persons outside of this state shall be made in the same manner as service within this state by any officer authorized to serve process in the state where the person is served. No order of court is required. An affidavit of the officer shall be filed, stating the time, manner, and place of service. The court may consider the affidavit, or any other competent evidence, in determining whether service has been properly made. Service of process on persons outside the United States may be required to conform to the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.

(2) Where in rem or quasi in rem relief is sought in a foreclosure proceeding as defined by s. 702.09, service of process on a person outside of this state where the address of the person to be served is known may be made by registered mail as follows:

(a) The party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall place a copy of the original process and the complaint, petition, or other initial pleading or paper and, if applicable, the order to show cause issued pursuant to s. 702.10 in a sealed envelope with adequate postage addressed to the person to be served.

(b) The envelope shall be placed in the mail as registered mail.

(c) Service under this subsection shall be considered obtained upon the signing of the return receipt by the person allowed to be served by law.

(3) If the registered mail which is sent as provided for in subsection (2) is returned with an endorsement or stamp showing “refused,” the party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, may serve original process by first-class mail. The failure to claim registered mail is not refusal of service within the meaning of this subsection. Service of process pursuant to this subsection shall be perfected as follows:

(a) The party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall place a copy of the original process and the complaint, petition, or other initial pleading or paper and, if applicable, the order to show cause issued pursuant to s. 702.10 in a sealed envelope with adequate postage addressed to the person to be served.

(b) The envelope shall be mailed by first-class mail with the return address of the party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, on the envelope.

(c) Service under this subsection shall be considered obtained upon the mailing of the envelope.

(4) If service of process is obtained under subsection (2), the party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall file an affidavit setting forth the return of service. The affidavit shall state the nature of the process; the date on which the process was mailed by registered mail; the name and address on the envelope containing the process; the fact that the process was mailed registered mail return receipt requested; who signed the return receipt, if known, and the basis for that knowledge; and the relationship between the person who signed the receipt and the person to be served, if known, and the basis for that knowledge. The return receipt from the registered mail shall be attached to the affidavit. If service of process is perfected under subsection (3), the party’s attorney or the party, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall file an affidavit setting forth the return of service. The affidavit shall state the nature of the process; the date on which the process was mailed by registered mail; the name and address on the envelope containing the process that was mailed by registered mail; the fact that the process was mailed registered mail and was returned with the endorsement or stamp “refused”; the date, if known, the process was “refused”; the date on which the process was mailed by first-class mail; the name and address on the envelope containing the process that was mailed by first-class mail; and the fact that the process was mailed by first-class mail with a return address of the party or the party’s attorney on the envelope. The return envelope from the attempt to mail process by registered mail and the return envelope, if any, from the attempt to mail the envelope by first-class mail shall be attached to the affidavit.
History. – s. 1, ch. 73-179; s. 4, ch. 93-250; s. 7, ch. 97-278.

Case Notes:

1. Out-of-state service is permitted under law of Florida if it is made in the same manner as in-state service and is made by an officer authorized to serve process in the state where the process is served. Thompson v. King, D.C. 523 F.Supp. 180 (1981).
2. [Section 48.194] permitting extraterritorial service of process to be served by officers of sister states is not in conflict with §48.011 directing that all process be directed to sheriffs of state. Electro Engineering Products Co. Inc. v. Lewis, 352 So.2d 862 (1977).

48.195 Service of foreign process.

(1) The service of process issued by a court of a state other than Florida may be made by the sheriffs of this state in the same manner as service of process issued by Florida courts. The provisions of this section shall not be interpreted to permit a sheriff to take any action against personal property, real property, or persons.

(2) An officer serving such foreign process shall be deemed as acting in the performance of his or her duties for the purposes of ss. 30.01, 30.02, 843.01, and 843.02, but shall not be held liable as provided in s. 839.19 for failure to execute any process delivered to him or her for service.

(3) The sheriffs shall be entitled to charge fees for the service of foreign process, and the fees shall be the same as fees for the service of comparable process for the Florida courts. When the service of foreign process requires duties to be performed in excess of those required by Florida courts, the sheriff may perform the additional duties and may collect reasonable additional compensation for the additional duties performed.
History. – s. 7, ch. 79-396; s. 36, ch. 81-259; s. 11, ch. 91-45; s. 282, ch. 95-147.

48.196 Service of process in connection with actions under the Florida International Arbitration Act.

(1) Any process in connection with the commencement of an action before the courts of this state under chapter 684, the Florida International Arbitration Act, shall be served:

(a) In the case of a natural person, by service upon:
1. That person;
2. Any agent for service of process appointed in, or pursuant to, any applicable agreement or by operation of any law of this state; or
3. Any person authorized by the law of the jurisdiction where process is served to accept service for that person.

(b) In the case of any person other than a natural person, by service upon:
1. Any agent for service of process appointed in, or pursuant to, any applicable agreement or by operation of any law of this state;
2. Any person authorized by the law of the jurisdiction where process is being served to accept service for that person; or
3. Any person, whether natural or otherwise and wherever located, who by operation of law or internal action is an officer, business agent, director, general partner, or managing agent or director of the person being served; or
4. Any partner, joint venturer, member or controlling shareholder, wherever located, of the person being served, if the person being served does not by law or internal action have any officer, business agent, director, general partner, or managing agent or director.

(2) The process served under subsection (1) shall include a copy of the application to the court together with all attachments thereto and shall be served in the following manner:

(a) In any manner agreed upon, whether service occurs within or without this state;

(b) If service is within this state:
1. In the manner provided in ss. 48.021 and 48.031, or
2. If applicable under their terms, in the manner provided in ss. 48.161, 48.183, 48.23, or chapter 49; or

(c) If service is outside this state:
1. By personal service by any person authorized to serve process in the jurisdiction where service is being made or by any person appointed to do so by any competent court in that jurisdiction;
2. In any other manner prescribed by the laws of the jurisdiction where service is being made for service in an action before a local court of competent jurisdiction;
3. In the manner provided in any applicable treaty to which the United States is a party;
4. In the manner prescribed by order of the court;
5. By any form of mail requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and dispatched by the clerk of the court to the person being served; or
6. If applicable, in the manner provided in chapter 49.

(3) No order of the court is required for service of process outside this state. The person serving process shall make proof of service to the court by affidavit or as prescribed by the law of the jurisdiction where process is being served or as prescribed in an order of the court. Such proof shall be made prior to expiration of the time within which the person served must respond. If service is by mail, the proof of service shall state the date and place of mailing and shall include a receipt signed by the addressee or other evidence of delivery satisfactory to the court.
History. – s. 2, ch. 86-266.

48.20 Service of process on Sunday.

Service or execution on Sunday of any writ, process, warrant, order, or judgment is void and the person serving or executing, or causing it to be served or executed, is liable to the party aggrieved for damages for so doing as if he or she had done it without any process, writ, warrant, order, or judgment. If affidavit is made by the person requesting service or execution that he or she has good reason to believe that any person liable to have any such writ, process, warrant, order, or judgment served on him or her intends to escape from this state under protection of Sunday, any officer furnished with an order authorizing service or execution by the judge or magistrate of any incorporated town may serve or execute such writ, process, warrant, order, or judgment on Sunday, and it is as valid as if it had been done on any other day.
History. – s. 44, Nov. 23, 1828; RS 1025; GS 1413; RGS 2611; CGL 4275; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 12, ch. 73-334; s. 283, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.46.

Case Note: A summons is “process” within meaning of statute providing that civil process cannot be served on Sunday. Miller v. Johnson, 466 So.2d 340 (1985).

48.21 Return of execution of process.

All officers to whom process is directed shall note on it, or on a return-of-service form attached thereto, the time when it comes to hand, the time when it is executed, the manner of execution, the name of the person on whom it was executed and if such person is served in a representative capacity, the position occupied by the person. A failure to state the foregoing facts invalidates the service, but the return is amendable to state the truth at any time on application to the court from which the process issued. On amendment, service is as effective as if the return had originally stated the omitted facts. A failure to state all the facts in the return shall subject the officer so failing to a fine not exceeding $10, in the court’s discretion.
History. – s. 18, Nov. 23, 1828; RS 1026; GS 1414; RGS 2612; CGL 4276; s. 4, ch. 67-254; s. 4, ch. 94-170; s. 1356, ch. 95-147.
Note. – Former s. 47.47.

48.22 Cumulative to other laws.

All provisions of this chapter are cumulative to other provisions of law or rules of court about service of process, and all other provisions about service of process are cumulative to this chapter.
History. – s. 9, ch. 11829, 1927; CGL 4265; s. 7, ch. 22858, 1945; s. 4, ch. 67-254.
Note. – Former ss. 47.33, 47.44.

48.27 Certified process servers.

(1) The chief judge of each judicial circuit may establish an approved list of natural persons designated as certified process servers. The chief judge may periodically add to such list the names of those natural persons who have met the requirements for certification provided for in s. 48.29. Each person whose name has been added to the approved list is subject to annual recertification and reappointment by the chief judge of a judicial circuit. The chief judge shall prescribe appropriate forms for application for inclusion on the list of certified process servers. A reasonable fee for the processing of any such application must be charged.

(2) The addition of a person’s name to the list authorizes him or her to serve initial nonenforceable civil process on a person found within the circuit where the process server is certified when a civil action has been filed against such person in the circuit court or in a county court in the state. Upon filing an action in circuit or county court, a person may select from the list for the circuit where the process is to be served one or more certified process servers to serve initial nonenforceable civil process.

(3) Nothing herein shall be interpreted to exclude a sheriff or deputy or other person appointed by the sheriff pursuant to s. 48.021 from serving process or to exclude a person from appointment by individual motion and order to serve process in any civil action in accordance with Rule 1.070(b) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
History. – s. 3, ch. 88-135; s. 5, ch. 97-96; s. 3, ch. 98-410.

48.29 Certification of process servers.

(1) The circuit court administrator and the clerk of the court in each county in the circuit shall maintain the list of process servers approved by the chief judge of the circuit. Such list may, from time to time, be amended or modified to add or delete a person’s name in accordance with the provisions of this section or s. 48.31.

(2) A person seeking the addition of his or her name to the approved list in any circuit shall submit an application to the chief judge of the circuit or to the chief judge’s designee on a form prescribed by the court.

(3) A person applying to become a certified process server shall:

(a) Be at least 18 years of age;

(b) Have no mental or legal disability;

(c) Be a permanent resident of the state;

(e) Obtain and file with his or her application a certificate of good conduct, which specifies there is no pending criminal case against the applicant and that there is no record of any felony conviction, nor a record of a conviction of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or dishonesty, with respect to the applicant within the past 5 years;

(f) If prescribed by the chief judge of the circuit, submit to an examination testing his or her knowledge of the laws and rules regarding the service of process. The content of the examination and the passing grade thereon, and the frequency and location at which such examination shall be offered shall be prescribed by the chief judge of the circuit. The examination, if any, shall be offered at least once annually;

(g) Execute a bond in the amount of $5,000 with a surety company authorized to do business in this state for the benefit of any person wrongfully injured by any malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, or incompetence of the applicant, in connection with his or her duties as a process server. Such bond shall be renewable annually; and

(h) Take an oath of office that he or she will honestly, diligently, and faithfully exercise the duties of a certified process server.

(4) The chief judge of the circuit may, from time to time by administrative order, prescribe additional rules and requirements regarding the eligibility of a person to become a certified process server or to have his or her name maintained on the list of certified process servers.

(5) (a) An applicant who completes the requirements set forth in this section and whose name the chief judge by order enters on the list of certified process servers shall be designated as a certified process server.

(b) Each certified process server shall be issued an identification card bearing his or her identification number, printed name, signature and photograph, the seal of the circuit court, and an expiration date. Each identification card shall be renewable annually upon proof of good standing and current bond.

(6) (a) A certified process server shall place on the face of any process served by him or her, his or her printed name, signature, and identification number, and words stating that he or she is a certified process server in the circuit wherein he or she is serving the process. In addition, the certified process server shall endorse on the original process, and on all copies served, the date and hour of service.

(b) Return of service shall be made by a certified process server on a form which has been reviewed and approved by the court.

(7) (a) A person may qualify as a certified process server and have his or her name entered on the list in more than one circuit.

(b) A process server whose name is on a list of certified process servers in more than one circuit may serve process on a person found in any such circuits.

(c) A certified process server may serve foreign process in any circuit in which his or her name has been entered on the list of certified process servers for that circuit.

(8) A certified process server may charge a fee for his or her services.
History. – s. 4, ch. 88-135; s. 284, ch. 95-147.

48.31 Removal of certified process servers; false return of service.

(1) A certified process server may be removed from the list of certified process servers for any malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, or incompetence, as provided by court rule.

(2) A certified process server must be disinterested in any process he or she serves; if the certified process server willfully and knowingly executes a false return of service, he or she is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, and shall be permanently barred from serving process in this state.
History. – s. 5, ch. 88-135; s. 285, ch. 95-147.

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