Service by Social Media

Imagine waking up and scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, as many of us do, and noticing you have a message in your inbox. Expecting it to be a long lost friend or perhaps an annoying chain letter, it’s from someone you don’t know at all. Curiosity getting the best of you, you open the message, and within the e-mail is legal verbiage with an attachment telling you that you have been served a subpoena! What? How could this be?

A proposed bill in Texas would allow people to be served with subpoenas over social media, like Facebook and Twitter, in lieu of being delivered face to face or by mail. In order to have service perfected this way, there are some guidelines put in place by the law, which are the following:

  • The defendant maintains a social media page
  • The profile on the social media page is the profile of the defendant
  • The defendant regularly accesses the social media page account
  • The defendant could reasonably be expected to receive actual notice if the electronic communication were sent to the defendant’s account

It is believed that although this would become an acceptable way of perfecting service, it would not be your first choice in attempting to serve the defendant. This type of service would be considered an “alternative service,” allowing attorneys to get creative if they can’t reach their subject by normal methods.

Currently, Utah appears to be the only other state allowing a domestic summons or subpoena by social media, but on a case-by-case basis. In Minnesota, a judge did grant a woman permission to serve her husband with divorce papers by e-mail, “Facebook, Myspace, or any other social networking site,” because she was unable to locate him and it was believed that he had fled the country to West Africa. It is also known that a number of foreign countries allow service of process via electronic means, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. Federal Government does as well, in some circumstances.

There are some worries about this method, and the major question is: How do officials know they are contacting the right person? As with all new systems, there are kinks that would need to be ironed out. It is hopeful that this is a stance towards the use of technology within the legal field.

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Resource: Blog