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Serving Someone Who Is Behind Bars

Are you a process server who needs to serve process on someone who is incarcerated in Michigan? It might seem confusing or complicated to serve an inmate, but it’s really not! Follow our guide below for a step-by-step on how to serve process on someone who is currently incarcerated in the state of Michigan, including Detroit.

Step 1: Find the Inmate

It’s fairly easy to find an inmate in Michigan, especially if they’re locked up in a state or federal prison. For inmates in the Michigan state correctional system, use the Michigan Department of Corrections Offender Search. For federal inmates located in Michigan, use the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. However, if the inmate is located in a Michigan county jail, you’ll need to search through each county sheriff’s inmate roster to find the process recipient. For inmates jailed in Detroit, use the Wayne County Inmate Search.

Step 2: Research the Correctional Facility’s Rules

Now it’s time to do a little research. Each correctional facility or jail will have its own rules regarding how process service is carried out. These rules keep everyone within the facility safe. Using the information you found in step 1 above, contact the facility where the inmate is located and ask about their specific regulations for accepting process (legal documents). Facility personnel should be able to give you all the information you need about how to serve process within their facility. 

Step 3: Request a Visit with the Inmate

You will likely need to request a visit with the inmate who is named in the process you are serving. Facility personnel will inform you on how to get cleared by the facility to visit inmates, which usually includes an application and background check at a minimum. Don’t forget that inmates can refuse a visit request…if this happens, refer to step 4a below.

Step 4: Serve the Inmate

On the date of your visit with the inmate, arrive early so you can let facility personnel review your documents ahead of time. All documents going in to inmates must be thoroughly inspected, and they may only allow copies made by the facility personnel to be given to the inmate. Once they give you the okay on your documents, meet with the inmate and go through the service process in the same way as you would any other person. Have the inmate sign that they received the process if possible.

Step 4a: What if the inmate refuses my visit?

If the inmate refuses to meet with you, you will need to request an alternative service from the Michigan court where the case originates. Service by substitution will probably be the most reasonable option for serving an inmate. If a judge agrees to give permission for service by substitution, this means you will be able to serve the process to another responsible adult who can pass it along to the inmate.

Step 5: Complete Proof of Service

Always complete proof of service as soon as the process is served. Proof of service is typically an affidavit signed by the person who served the documents, confirming that the legal documents were delivered to the inmate. This proof of service must be filed with the originating court to verify that the service was executed according to legal standards.

Step 6: Recordkeeping & Follow-up

Take the completed proof of service form and file a copy with the court where the case originated, keep a copy for your records, and provide a copy to your client (usually the case petitioner or plaintiff). Hold on to your copies for several years, as some cases linger on for quite some time and you never know when the court will request that you produce your copies of documentation.

Have Questions About Serving an Inmate? Accurate Serve of Detroit Has Answers

Serving process on an inmate in Michigan is a straightforward process, although it can be lengthy. At Accurate Serve of Detroit, we know how to get process served within jails, state facilities, and federal correctional systems, keeping the case on schedule and on budget. For more information on our services, contact Accurate Serve of Detroit at 313-385-3703 or email erik@accurateservedetroit.com.