A recent article published on the Serve-Now website gives Washington process servers some advice which, if followed, could result in both criminal charges and a civil suit. The article discusses the use of body cameras by process servers. The author, private detective Ken Ringo of Bryan, TX, describes an incident in which his body cam provided useful information to a police investigation. What Mr. Ringo fails to mention are federal laws governing the invasion of a person’s privacy. Similarly there are state statutes, for Washington in particular, which are even more stringent than their federal equivalents.
Fortunately Serve-Now linked Mr Ringo’s article to a page where they discuss the pros and cons of using body cams while serving legal process, find it here. Body cams present two potentially serious issues for process servers.
Video – You get out of your car and walk up to the door of a servee’s house. You ring the bell and the door opens. The person who opened the door is a child who is not wearing any clothing. The child’s mother comes running from another room. She picks up the child and shuts the door. Your body cam recorded the entire sequence of events. Are you potentially in violation of RCW 9.68A?
Audio – You go to the door with your body cam turned on. A man answers the door. Since you have a photograph of the servee you know this is him. You have a conversation with him but he refuses to identify himself or answer any of your questions. You drop the papers at his feet and leave. He later claims he wasn’t served. At a hearing you attempt to present the video and audio recording. As the audio begins to play the other attorney objects because his client never agreed to being recorded. The judge throws your evidence out. Are you potentially in violation of RCW 9.73?
The answer to both questions is “yes.” I discussed this with a local attorney and he agreed with me. The downsides of using a body cam while serving in Washington far outweigh any benefit they might provide.