Many Process Servers Now Voluntarily Use GPS To Log Service Attempts
Process servers around the country have been using Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) to physically locate an address and serve defendants since technology changed and old-school paper maps have become nearly obsolete. GPS navigation became an excellent tool for civil process servers to get around with ease. However, it isn’t just GPS navigation that has revolutionized the civil process service industry; it is the multi-faceted functionality of GPS that has.
Today, civil process servers are taking advantage of logging GPS coordinates when they make service attempts. With the advent of easy-to-use cell phone apps, programs, and process serving software with these features built in, process servers can in one click capture GPS specific location coordinates at which a process server is attempting service is recorded — including the date and time. Although different programs and apps function differently, the GPS coordinates are typically captured when a civil process server snaps a photo or logs in a service attempt. Presently, this information serves as an added record to show when and where service was attempted or effectuated. In fact, logging GPS coordinates is legally required in New York City; this information must accompany all civil process attempts in New York
It wasn’t just changing technology that caused civil process servers to begin logging GPS coordinates when making service attempts, it was the need to provide additional proof to the courts that due diligent attempts to serve defendants were actually made.
Additional proof was needed as a direct result of the New York sewer service scandals in the late 2000s. These events defamed civil process servers and had a massive impact on the requirements of those in the civil process service industry. Essentially, process servers in New York infamously falsified service affidavits after neglecting to provide due diligent efforts or service attempts at all. This practice became widely known as “sewer service” (e.g. they threw the papers in the sewers of New York) has been the bane of the civil process service industry since the height of the scandal in the late 2000s. You can read more about these events in the 2009 article from the New York Times and in this 2009 press release from the New York Attorney General.
Subsequently, the courts needed to get more reliable confirmation that service attempts had been made. With the capabilities of GPS service, New York City moved to make logging GPS coordinates and storing this data in a third-party system a requirement, which was signed into law in July 2011. Storing the data with a third-party made a permanent record that could not be changed by process servers. While there are currently no statewide GPS regulations in place, it may be something that is required of process servers in the future— especially as many clients are requiring GPS logged service attempts from their civil process service providers.
From Scandal Savior to Value-Added Service
Although sewer service was isolated to some bad apples in New York, the events certainly shook the confidence of those working with civil process servers. Even civil process servers who had a long-standing record of superb service suffered the effects of the scandal as trust was shattered and increased regulations meant extra work, especially when it meant finding and purchasing software programs or apps that could handle logging the GPS data that is required in New York City.
Now that the GPS requirement has been in place and servers are getting comfortable with the newly implemented and more strict requirements, many servers are finding that logging GPS coordinates require little additional effort as the technology does most of the work for process servers. We spoke with past NYSPPSA President and current President-Elect Larry Yelon, who let us know that many process servers use GPS based on the demands of their client, without a mandate from any agency or municipality. He also predicted that although “more and more process servers will be using GPS, I don’t foresee it becoming an agency demand, at least in the state of New York.”
While GPS logging is not a legal requirement in California yet, I think the more servers and process server firms that use GPS logging, the better. Using such technology should increase transparency and reduce the instances of unscrupulous servers engaging in "gutter service" which gives the entire industry a black eye. I think laws will be coming down nationwide to require logging coordinates during service attempts so being an early adopter of such technology will certainly pay dividends in the future.
Joseph Click, I Serve Papers
Outside of New York, many process servers have already moved toward implementing new technology into their business. We spoke with Process Server Joseph Click out of California who explained that “While GPS logging is not a legal requirement in California yet, I think the more servers and process server firms that use GPS logging, the better. Using such technology should increase transparency and reduce the instances of unscrupulous servers engaging in "gutter service" which gives the entire industry a black eye. I think laws will be coming down nationwide to require logging coordinates during service attempts so being an early adopter of such technology will certainly pay dividends in the future.”
Benefits of GPS Logged Service Attempts
Beyond just providing additional proof to the courts, logging GPS coordinates on service attempts also helps to protect the process server from fraudulent claims of bad service. In the event of a motion to quash, where process servers are forced to reaffirm their service attempts in court, sometimes several years later, logged GPS coordinates can serve as an additional source of documentation. When this is combined with pictures and/or video, detailed service notes, and/or defendant signatures and a process server who can accurately recall the service if questioned, many find that their service is upheld in court. This keeps clients happy and process servers in good standing.
Delyne Nunez and Jayne Rauser Discuss GPS
In this video, Jayne Rauser of Diversified Legal Services in Georgia and Delyne Nunez of Atlas Interstate Process Service in Texas share how GPS has been an added benefit to their businesses.
Video courtesy of ServeManager.
We held a Linkedin discussion on the benefits of logging GPS coordinates, and we had an excellent response. From the conversation, Alex Kamp of East End Process Service, LLC explained that he uses an app that logs the address and time of service because “a lot of servers don't do due diligence and just post. This proves you have [and], comes in handy if you have to testify.” Randy Mucha of Firefly Legal also contributed to the discussion on GPS by stating that “Our software captures the GPS coordinates [...]. In addition, our mobile app utilizes the server’s cell phone camera/GPS to capture all of the metadata embedded with the image [...]. Years later, [...] when the case is contested in court we are able to produce an image with metadata coinciding with the attempt information on the sworn affidavit that supports the server’s testimony.“
Most contributors echoed the sentiment that using GPS to log service attempts makes their clients feel secure in their service, and in fact, some clients demand this practice of logging GPS coordinates. Several predicted that this technology would become a requirement in their state and potentially nationwide.
Also from the Linkedin group, Greg Urroz of Maricopa County Process Service, PLLC, stated “when you are using an app to document the GPS location, the coordinates are system-generated. That is one of the criteria for New York. This will probably become a standard nationwide at some point. We do it to offer a higher level of service and the clients really like it.”
As a final note about the benefits of GPS, it’s also important to be aware of potential issues or criticisms of utilizing GPS coordinates. Logging GPS is a fantastic way for process servers to substantiate their attempts beyond traditional means of documentation, but it is not 100% reliable. In some rural areas, loss of signal may make it impossible or difficult to obtain GPS coordinates. Some also may argue that logging GPS coordinates do not verify that a service attempt was actually made— it only verifies that an individual was at that specific location. In New York City, where process servers are required to store the data with a third party, many find this to be expensive and difficult to obtain. Finally, those process servers who are not currently using technology capable of logging GPS data would need to invest in the technology to be able to do so. Despite these minor criticisms of GPS logging, it absolutely provides a significant benefit to those who use it.
Consider Implementing GPS
Our discussion group on Linkedin brought forth some excellent points as to why there is a great value to offering GPS logged civil process service. Although there may be a cost to add process serving software/apps if process servers do not currently have apps or process serving software capable of logging coordinates, adding this service would be of great benefit to civil process service clients— and to process servers themselves. In fact, many process serving software programs already have this feature built in.
Process servers should consider implementing the technology to log GPS coordinates on their serves because it carries the benefit of keeping clients and courts happy, it provides an additional layer of security to help bolster the integrity of civil process servers, and it can help protect process servers in the event they are questioned in court.
More on GPS and Process Serving Software
The team at ServeManager has expanded on this article to include their own thoughts on GPS as a service and tool for recording service attempts. You can read more on that here: Marketing Your Firm's Use of GPS for Logging Attempts.