Start My Answer

Why Is the Sheriff Looking for Me?

Chloe Meltzer | March 11, 2024

Chloe Meltzer
Legal Expert
Chloe Meltzer, MA

Chloe Meltzer is an experienced content writer specializing in legal content creation. She holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, complemented by a Master’s in Marketing from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: There are many reasons a sheriff might be looking for you. There could be a warrant out for your arrest if you have committed a crime, or they might be trying to serve you court documents for a civil lawsuit. If you’ve been sued for debt, a sheriff may serve you the court papers. You should respond to the lawsuit with a written Answer to avoid losing by default. SoloSuit can help you draft and file a customized Answer into your case.

“What would a sheriff come to my house with papers? Why would the sheriff office call me? Why would I get a letter from the sheriff?”

If you find yourself asking these questions, there are a few reasons why this might be happening. First of all, the sheriff could be attempting to serve you a subpoena, an eviction, or find out why you missed jury duty. In most cases though, a sheriff is looking for you because they are attempting to serve you with court papers.

Being “served” is the same thing as being delivered a note by the courts. You might be served with a lawsuit for debt, served with papers for a divorce, served with an eviction notice, or another legal action. These papers will let you know exactly what you need to do. For example, you may need to appear in court, pay fines, or answer the summons.

Pick the right affirmative defense with SoloSuit.

How to find out if you have a warrant

If you find out the sheriff is looking for you, and you suspect you have a warrant, there are a few methods you can use to check. First, search the local records for your county court or sheriff's department. You can also call a local bail bondsman to ask, or bit the bullet and call the sheriff’s office.

If you believe that there is a federal warrant involved, you must contact the federal court for the district in which you live.

Once a sheriff finds you, they are required to ask you your name. Once they have confirmed your identity, they will give you your papers. You will then need to go through the steps outlined in the documents to ensure you remain in compliance with the law.

There are many reasons to be served papers

There are many reasons you might get served papers, but it usually involves some sort of a court case. More specifically, here are some reasons to be served papers:

  • You are being sued for debt.
  • You are being sued for any other reason.
  • You are being taken to court over child support.
  • Your spouse has filed for divorce.

These are just a few explanations for being served court documents. Typically, service occurs in civil cases where a crime hasn’t been committed. If you are the subject of a criminal case, chances are you will be arrested in place of being served.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Susan was surprised when a sheriff showed up at her doorstep with court documents. The sheriff was there to deliver a court Summons and Complaint for debt collection. After taking a closer look at the papers, Susan discovered she was being sued by a debt collection agency for an old credit card debt. She used SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit, increasing her chances of winning by 7x.

The sheriff might serve you for debt collection

When you are served with papers that are notifying you of legal action from a debt collector or creditor, you’ll receive a Summons to appear in court on a certain date. The Summons outlines information regarding how to respond, the parties involved in the case, and the court in which the case is filed.

The Summons is accompanied by a Complaint document (also known as a Petition in some states). The Complaint outlines the specific claims being made against you, such as the debt amount, interest and fees, etc.

It is essential that you respond to the Summons and Complaint, otherwise there will be an automatic judgment awarded against you called a default judgment. This is the same as losing the case.

With a default judgment, the creditor or collector may have the right to garnish your wages and put liens on your property to collect the debt. Luckily, you can avoid a default judgment by responding to the case.

To avoid a judgment, you must file a written Answer into the case. Keep reading to learn how to make your own, or use SoloSuit’s Answer form to draft a customized response to your debt lawsuit.

Draft and file an Answer to your lawsuit in minutes online.

Follow these three steps to respond to a debt collection lawsuit:

  1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint. Like we said before, the Complaint lists the specific allegations being made against you. In your Answer, you should respond to each claim in corresponding order. You can admit, deny, or deny due to lack of knowledge. Most attorneys recommend denying a majority of the claims. This forces the person or company suing you to prove their claims, and if they cannot, the case will likely be dismissed.

  2. Assert your affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is a legal reason you shouldn’t be held liable for a debt. There are dozens of affirmative defenses you can use in a debt collection case, for example, the statute of limitations on debt being expired.

  3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney. After you’ve responded to each claim and listed your defenses, you must file the Answer in court before your state’s deadline. You must also serve the opposing lawyer with a copy of your Answer. You can do this via mail, but you should use certified mail with a return receipt requested.

Check out this video to learn more about the three steps to respond to a debt collection lawsuit:

Civil papers being served by a sheriff must fulfill certain requirements

The following conditions must be met to serve you papers:

  • Must be within the court's jurisdiction: The court that is serving you is only allowed to do so if it is in their jurisdiction. This means they are required to have a registered address in the area of the court that is suing you.
  • You must be physically at the address to be served: As mentioned, they are required to ask your name and give you the documents in person. Despite this, a court summons, complaint, or subpoena can usually be sent through registered mail. If you sign to accept the registered mail, you will be considered served.
  • The person serving you must be eligible, whether they are a sheriff, government official, trained process server, or someone else who was appointed by the court.

Click here to learn more about service of process rules and laws. Keep in mind that service laws vary by state.

How to deal with a debt collection lawsuit

There are a few options when dealing with a debt collection lawsuit. The best plan is to settle outside of court, which will save you time, money, and effort. If you do end up going to court there are a few ways to handle the situation.

  • Challenge the right to sue/burden of proof. Debts are typically sold at least once, but often more times than one. This means you are most likely not being served with a lawsuit from your original creditor. When debts are sold and change hands, information can be lost. This is why it is essential to ask the institution that is suing you, to prove their ownership of the debt with a paper trail. This is also known as the burden of proof. If they cannot prove the debt belongs to you, then your case will be dropped.

  • Look into the statute of limitations. Some debts are too old to collect on. Every state has different laws when it comes to the statute of limitations, but it is generally anywhere from four to six years. If the debt is older than the statute limit, the court will dismiss it.

  • Serve a countersuit. If you believe that your debt is not valid, you can file a counterclaim. This should only be done in the case that you believe the other side has done something illegal. If so, your suit may cancel out theirs.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

Respond with SoloSuit

Get Started

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

How to Answer a Summons for debt collection in all 50 states

Here's a list of guides on how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in each state:

The Ultimate 50 State Guide

Guides on how to resolve debt with every debt collector

Are you being sued by a debt collector? We’re making guides on how to resolve debt with each one.

Resolve your debt with your creditor

Some creditors, banks, and lenders have an internal collections department. If they come after you for a debt, Solosuit can still help you respond and resolve the debt. Here’s a list of guides on how to resolve debt with different creditors.

Get debt relief in your state

We’ve created a specialized guide on how to find debt relief in all 50 states, complete with steps to take to find relief, state-specific resources, and more.

Debt collection laws in all 50 states

Debt collection laws vary by state, so we have compiled a guide to each state’s debt collection laws to make it easier for you to stand up for your rights—no matter where you live.

Check the status of your court case

Don’t have time to go to your local courthouse to check the status of your case? We’ve created a guide on how to check the status of your case in every state, complete with online search tools and court directories.

How to stop wage garnishment in your state

Forgot to respond to your debt lawsuit? The judge may have ordered a default judgment against you, and with a default judgment, debt collectors can garnish your wages. Here are our guides on how to stop wage garnishment in all 50 states.

How to settle a debt in your state

Debt settlement is one of the most effective ways to resolve a debt and save money. We’ve created a guide on how to settle your debt in all 50 states. Find out how to settle in your state with a simple click and explore other debt settlement resources below.

How to settle with every debt collector

Not sure how to negotiate a debt settlement with a debt collector? We are creating guides to help you know how to start the settlement conversation and increase your chances of coming to an agreement with every debt collector.

Other debt settlement resources

Personal loan and debt relief reviews

We give a factual review of the following debt consolidation, debt settlement, and loan organizations and companies to help you make an informed decision before you take on a debt.

Guides on arbitration

If the thought of going to court stresses you out, you’re not alone. Many Americans who are sued for credit card debt utilize a Motion to Compel Arbitration to push their case out of court and into arbitration.

Below are some resources on how to use an arbitration clause to your advantage and win a debt lawsuit.

Stop calls from debt collectors

Do you keep getting calls from an unknown number, only to realize that it’s a debt collector on the other line? If you’ve been called by any of the following numbers, chances are you have collectors coming after you, and we’ll tell you how to stop them.

Civil law legal definitions

You can represent yourself in court. Save yourself the time and cost of finding an attorney, and use the following resources to understand legal definitions better and how they may apply to your case.

Get answers to these FAQs on debt collection

How-to debt guides

Learn more with these additional debt resources

Not sued yet?

Use our Debt Validation Letter.

Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.

Let's Do It

It only takes 15 minutes.

And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.

"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" - Heather

Get Started