With 2017 now underway, two process server assault cases in which weapons were used against process servers have recently made headlines in Maryland. Although the first incident occurred in late 2015, court proceedings have resolved — with a guilty verdict. The second case, which occurred late in 2016, is ongoing in the Charles County Circuit Court.
The first incident happened a few days before Christmas on December 22, 2015 when a civil process server was leaving Westminster resident Christian Charles Shenk’s home after attempting to serve process. News reports state that as the process server was attempting to drive away, Shenk brandished a rifle and fired several shots at the process server, two of which struck the vehicle. One of the shots continued through the process server’s vehicle to the steering column. Remarkably, the process server was not struck or injured by the gunfire. Initially, Shenk was charged with second degree attempted murder (Maryland Criminal Code:CR.2.206), first degree assault (Maryland Criminal Code:CR.3.202, use of handgun in a violent crime (Maryland Criminal Code:CR.4.204.b), reckless endangerment (Maryland Criminal CodeCR.3.204.(a)(1)).
Of the charges, Shenk was originally found not guilty of reckless endangerment, but the court later determined he was guilty of the misdemeanor. He was sentenced to five years in jail, five years of supervised probation and a $2500 fine. Despite the sentencing, Shenk was given a work release and will only have to serve 6 months of the sentence, according to court records. He was found not guilty of attempted second degree murder, first-degree assault, or felony use of a firearm.
Although people who assault process servers could face felony convictions for their crimes, as this case shows, that is not always the case. Changing legislation to protect process servers by creating stiffer punishments would ensure that they receive justice in the event that they are assaulted. The general public needs to know that process servers aren’t just delivering bad news — they’re protecting the due process rights of every U.S. Citizen.
The second, more recent incident occurred November 1, 2016. The details of the situation as reported are as follows. In Waldorf, a process server attempted service on Philip Carby Allen, who in turn responded by displaying a handgun. Allen then pulled back the hammer and readied the gun to fire, while stating “I don’t want any [explicit] paperwork.” In this instance, no shots were fired; however, the process server feared for his life. Allen was charged with first and second degree assault, use of a handgun in a violent crime, and reckless endangerment. Allen is out on bond while the case is ongoing.
Maryland is working toward creating a bill that would make process server assault a felony. Maryland Senator Wayne Norman indicated that he would be interested in sponsoring and presenting a bill if one was prepared and he found it to be of value.
Getting this type of bills’ approved may not be as daunting of a task now that Larry Yellon and other members of NYPPSA (New York Professional Process Server Association) have been able to get legislation changed in New York. Schaffer stated that “Now that New York has the [law], we can piggy-back onto it. We are working on the bill right now. [It’s our] first attempt at getting legislation. It’s become very apparent that we need it.”
As we are updated and report on the progress of the proposed bill, we encourage process servers nationwide to join the efforts to compel our legislators to make positive changes for the process serving community by making process server assault a felony.
These assaults are certainly not limited to Maryland, as some of the media links below will demonstrate: