Process Server and Investigation

Moral and Ethical Dilemmas Process Servers and Private Investigators Face When Asked to Serve and Investigate Friends, Relatives and Colleagues

Oklahoma Judicial Process Server

Anyone who has ever worked as a legal representative or private investigator for any length of time knows all too well that eventually the profession hits a bit too close to home.  Perhaps an attorney sends out a serve to the owner of a process serving company without ever mentioning the name of the person the papers are for.  The legal agent opens up the envelope only to find that – wow – the serve is for a friend, family member, or even a colleague.  Likewise, at times businesses, governmental agencies, or even friends, relatives or colleagues will ask an Oklahoma private detective to investigate someone close to him or her.  These kinds of situations can present moral and ethical dilemmas for both Oklahoma legal agents and private investigators.  Oklahoma Judicial Process Servers examines ways to handle these situations.

Obviously, most legal agents and Oklahoma private investigators do not want to serve their friends, family and colleagues.  Well, perhaps those who feel wronged or otherwise badly mistreated these individuals might, but generally speaking most people would not.  So, what is a personal representative or private detective to do?  Several possibilities exist.

The process server or private investigator could ethically decline the serve or private investigation, citing a conflict of interest.  Indeed, the Oklahoma City inquiry officer or private eye could also not simply provide a reason for choosing not to perform the serve or conduct the private investigation.  Under Oklahoma law, no private investigator or legal agent is ethically or legally obligated to take on any particular case.  However, this begs the question: does declining to perform the serve or conduct the private investigation allow the personal representative or private investigator free to tell his or her friend, family member, colleague, etc. about the situation?  After all, is justice, at least in theory, not supposed to be blind?

Professionally speaking, it is not advisable to inform someone else that he or she is about to get served with court papers or that he or she is the subject of an investigation.  Legal agents and licensed private investigators must remember their duty to their profession and the level of integrity involved.  It goes without saying that in this particular circumstance, this is seldom an easy thing to do.

Of course, professionals on the other side of the fence would contend that because the personal representatives or Oklahoma private detective declined the case, he or she should be able to inform the other parties involved.  Those with this contention would emphasize the ethics of family and friendship over professional obligations.  Surely this is justifiable, right?

Then again, should society permit police officers, judges, district attorneys, etc., to simply toss out any legal charges against their family members and friends, without going through a presumably unbiased legal process?  Should teachers whose own children are in their classes be allowed to give them the highest grades without requiring that their kids put forth any effort?  Should librarians get to waive any late return fees for their friends and family that they would not otherwise waive for other patrons?  These are all legal and ethical issues that many public servants must face.

Of course, what if the client is a governmental agency that wants to investigate a family member for fraud?  If a private investigator or Oklahoma inquiry officer tips that person off, could the agency hold the private investigator civilly and criminally responsible?  Could the legal agent or licensed private investigator’s actions affect his or her professional licenses and certifications?  Does society hold private investigators and process servers to the same legal and ethical standards that it holds police officers, judges, district attorneys, teachers and librarians?  Should it?  After all, society does not consider Oklahoma legal advisor and private detectives to be public servants, right?  These are indeed complex legal questions for all licensed personal agent and private eyes to carefully consider.

Are these types of abuses of power by public servants even in the same category as that of a legal representative or private investigator who simply tells a family member or friend that he or she is about to get served or investigated?  While the legalities clearly favour process servers and private investigators who have not accepted a case and wish to tell their family, colleagues and friends, the ethical line for personal representative and private investigators is indeed a much more complicated, unclear issue.  The ultimate decision is up to each private detective and inquiry officer to decide for himself or herself.

There is one action that a investigation officer or private investigator could take that would definitely cross both legal and ethical boundaries.  Let us assume that a legal agent in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Yukon, Norman, Moore, El Reno, Stillwater, Bethany, Midwest City, Mustang, Tulsa, Stillwater, Del City, Piedmont, Guthrie, Lawton, or elsewhere accepted the assignment from the client, knowing that the person who he or she needed to serve or investigate was his or her relative, friend, colleague, etc.  How ethical or legal would it then be for that private agent to then turn around and tell the client that he or she “could not find” the individual?  What if the process server eventually “found” the person, but not before he or she had first had the opportunity to file suit or take other pre-emptive legal action against the client?  Once again, what if the private investigator investigated the matter, but not without first tipping off the individual who was the subject of the investigation, thus ensuring that any devious or criminal behaviour that person might have been engaging in changed accordingly for the duration of the “investigation”?  This kind of activity on the part of the legal detective or Oklahoma private eye would definitely constitute both legal and ethical violations.

Another option that private investigators and Oklahoma inquiry officer have is to refer the case to another professional in the field.  Of course, while doing so may help garner additional return referrals from that legal agent or private investigator in the future, it might also cause problems right away, too.  That person might know of the relationship that exists between the process server or private eye and his or her friend, relative or colleague.  The Oklahoma legal representative or private detective who received the referral might let that person know who provided it.  In addition, the same legal and ethical dilemmas as noted earlier would still apply.  Thus, in an attempt to garner additional referrals and dodge the ethical and legal complications, the Oklahoma City private investigator or process server could potentially lose client and still damage his or her standing with the family member, friend, etc.

The only other viable option would be for the personal representative or private investigator to take the case.  He or she could choose to have an employee work the case, making it possible to still make some money.  While legal agent usually do not have to go to court to testify, many private investigators do.  Thus, a company’s name is likely to surface in the judicial process of testifying.  Ergo, even though the owner of the private detective agency in Norman, Oklahoma might have delegated the serve to another private eye, the friend or relative is still likely to end up knowing the owner’s company name and/or his or her personal identity.

On the other hand, the inquiry officer or private detective could also opt to perform the work, whereby the family member or friend would almost definitely know who served or investigated him or her.  This might work well for a personal representative or private investigator with a vindictive streak and nothing to lose.  This tactic could also give the person an “inside track” to the friend or relative, as that person is probably less likely to suspect that a friend or family member would serve him or her papers or conduct a private investigation.  Of course, this approach will likely burn any existing or future bridges toward positive friendship or family ties.  One never knows when he or she will need to cross that bridge or build a new one in the future.  Thus, all process servers and private detectives should give serious consideration as to whether or not this pathway constitutes the best approach.

All of the options involved in deciding whether or not to serve or investigate a friend, colleague or relative are indeed very complicated.  There is no clear road or path to take that does not mean losing a potential client, money, friendship, or running into ethical or legal issues.  Those who run process serving companies and private detective agencies should give serious thought as to whether or not to serve a friend, family member or colleague, as well as the possible ramifications of their decisions.

Need Help?

Call Us

(405) 593-3515


Would you like us to call you back?

Enter your info below