Imagine for a moment that someone shot you, robbed you, or burglarized your house, and some persons witnessed the crime but refused to testify about what they saw.
On occasion, we receive legal documents for people who refuse to make themselves available to be served a subpoena, so we have to be creative.
We don't often receive criminal subpoenas because the Sheriff or Marshall usually serves them.
We received a job from an attorney who said that the Sheriff had been unable to serve a young fellow who was avoiding service and lived in an apartment with three other guys, and he was a critical witness in a case.
We’ve used different kinds of tricks to get witnesses who were avoiding service to answer their door. We have used Incredible Edible bags and pizza delivery bags to get past concierges in secure apartment buildings without being challenged. There was one particular individual who would only look through their peep-hole and not acknowledge anyone knocking at their door, not until we stood at their door, holding an empty large screen TV box.
Back to the fellow who lived with three others who covered for him and lied every time someone tried to serve him.
I decided to wait until the following week when there was a Monday Night Football Game, guessing they would be engrossed in the game.
I put on my white pizza delivery hat and took my pizza bag to their apartment. When I approached the building, a gentleman was exiting the front door and looked at my pizza bag and said with a surprised look, "You guys deliver in this neighborhood?" "Sure do!" I cheerfully responded as I passed him and headed to the 2nd-floor apartment.
I could hear cheering inside as I knocked. When the door opened, there were a bunch of guys there in front of the TV. I smiled and said, "Pizza for George Martin!" They all looked to a young man sitting in the corner chair and asked, "George, did you order a pizza?" The guy sitting in the corner said, "Hell no, I didn't order any pizza." I smiled broadly and said, "You didn't. I don't have a pizza; I have a subpoena for you." All the guys started laughing; as a disgruntled George took the subpoena.
Not too long after that, a more challenging job came our way. A man rented a house from an old lady, and stopped paying his rent a month after he moved in. According to our client, who had been attempting to serve him for several months, this fellow owned a large, ferocious pit bull, and he never answered his door.
This service called for a change in tactics, one that we have never tried before. We found the subject's picture on Facebook, which solved half of our problem, knowing that he would not acknowledge his name if we saw him.
I put on my pizza hat, bag in hand, and, at 10:30 on a Saturday night, went to his residence.
It was a typical Washington DC house, a 30-foot-long concrete walkway leading to the brown brick home, with a side entrance and a porch on the front of the residence. The first-floor lights were on, and the curtains drawn tight.
When I knocked on the door, the pit-bull hit hard on the other side of the door and barked ferociously. I was glad there was a secure door between us. We typically place our foot against a gated door when there appears to be a hostile dog within the abode. I knocked again, which made the dog sound even angrier. Then I called out. "Pizza delivery!" I stood listening to the dog for another minute, then walked to the end of his walkway, near the street.
With my back to his house (I knew he'd be peaking through his curtains), I took out my phone, pretended to make a call, and started speaking loudly. "Are you sure this is the right address? No one is answering the door!" I continued this intense faux conversation for about 3 minutes when I heard a door unlocking behind me and then a voice asking, "Who are you looking for?" I turned around, walked up to the man standing at the railing of the porch, and with a broad "Cheshire Cat" smile, said, "You!" Then, as he turned and ran into his house, I dropped the papers at his feet and announced, "You are served."
Gotcha!!! I didn't stop smiling for the rest of the night.
(Many people are under the impression that a person served must take the legal documents in hand or we have to touch the person with them. Not so! It's almost like playing tag, but with your voice. When the person you are serving is within a reasonable distance, and notified of the service, they are "tagged." It is then their responsibility to take possession of the papers. If they turn and run, we drop them, because the documents now belong to them.)