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How to serve an inmate who is incarcerated in an out of state federal prison?

Potomac, MD |
Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

It is a little more complicated than just locating the inmate. You do not state whether you are serving a subpoena for a witness to appear, or an original summons attached to a newly filed civil complaint. A Maryland subpoena has no legal effect if served outside of Maryland. You would have to file a "miscellaneous" action in the other state, attaching the Maryland subpoena or summons, and having a new one issued from that state and served in compliance with that state's laws. If you are serving a summons on original service of process of a civil complaint, then the Maryland summons can be served without filing a new action in the other state, but it must be served in accordance with the local state's service rules.


The Bureau of Prisons has an inmate locator service at their website so finding him is no problem. If you need a federal inmate to testify in a federal matter, your attorney needs to file a motion for a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum--in other words an order that the BOP produce him so that he can testify. I do not know whether the BOP will also produce inmates for state court proceedings, but I assume the procedure would be the same. If you are talking about serving him with notice of a lawsuit against him, the attorney just needs to use a process server in the state where the inmate is located.

This answer is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as the practice of law in any jurisdiction in which I am not licensed. The answer does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is based only on the information provided, and may be inaccurate in the context of additional facts that have not been provided. The questioner should be aware that I am only licensed to practice law in the state and federal courts of Minnesota. Accordingly, before taking any action or refraining from taking any action, the questioner should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in his or her jurisdiction.



Thank you. Inmate's location and inmate number is known but as to why he is "unable to be located" is confusing. I was told the Federal Marshall would have to serve him. Is there any other way the inmate can be served?

Robert David Richman

Robert David Richman


I described several options in my answer. As I said, it depends on what you are serving him with. Are you trying to compel his appearance in court, or are you just serving papers on him? What exactly are you serving? Is it a state or federal proceeding? Civil or criminal?


If you cannot locate the person at, then the person may be in protective custody. Summoning that person for trial would require a motion and persuading the court to order it.

Information in the reply is provided as a public service. It is neither a comprehensive statement of the law nor legal advice, and no one should rely on it as such. If you have a legal problem or question, you should consult with an attorney, who can investigate the particular circumstances of your situation. Responding to a post does not constitute legal representation. I am not your lawyer, until we make an agreement and I receive my fee. Beware that posts and replies are not confidential. Anyone can read them.

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