Can a Sheriff refuse to serve a warrant because they area friend of the person to be served?

UPDATED: Oct 14, 2010

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Can a Sheriff refuse to serve a warrant because they area friend of the person to be served?

Charges were filed for assault and trespassing on a couple that lived in a different county. Judge issued arrest warrants for both, warrants were sent to sheriff of that county that they resided. On day of scheduled court date they had not been served; so the sheriff’s department called to see why. The sheriff of that county said that he was not going to serve the warrants because they were his neighbor and they were good people. Sheriff sent the warrants back to the justice court that they came from.

Asked on October 14, 2010 under Criminal Law, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

It's not impossible or improper that a specific law enforcement person could say, "I can't serve papers on John Doe, since John's a friend on neighbor of mine." In that case, someone else in the organization or office should do so, since that would avoid personal entanglements. However, the law enforcement office as a whole cannot avoid doing it's legal duty. You should follow up with the court, to make sure  the warrants are not simply lost in the system; possibly, for example, they either could be re-sent to the Sheriff with an order that he must serve them, or else served by some other law enforcement organization with jurisdiction (maybe state police?). You should also contact whomever is the Sheriff's "boss"--e.g. a county official; the state AG; whomever has oversight over the office--and inform them of the situation, since again, a Sheriff cannot decide whom he will serve or not--the best he can do is ask some other law enforcer to help out, if he personally has a conflict.

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