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Suppose a party to a proceeding has obtained summons to a witness from the court.

The witness lives in the town (as per their digital footprint) but is not responsive. The party has no idea where to find them physically.

Does the party have any legal leverage to engage the police (or other competent authorities apart from private investigators) to help locate the witness and serve the summons on them? Or is it just the party's bad luck that the witness cannot be located and served on?

(Any common law jurisdiction).

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Does the party have any legal leverage to engage the police (or other competent authorities apart from private investigators) to help locate the witness and serve the summons on them?

Not really. Legal process is not infrequently served by a sheriff's deputy. But the deputy will not generally take any initiative to locate a person to be served beyond what it provided by the litigant. The main reasons to have a sheriff's deputy serve someone with process is the fear that the person served might react violently.

Or is it just the party's bad luck that the witness cannot be located and served on?

Pretty much.

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Rules of service vary greatly between and even within jurisdictions

For example, in both the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules and Criminal Procedure Act require service of subpoenas in person.

However, the Local Court Rules also allow service by post, fax or email as well as leaving it with a person over the age of 16 at the witness’ address.

In any event, it is up to the person serving the subpoena to ensure it is correctly served including locating the witness. The Office of the Sheriff Can be engaged to serve a subpoena but you have to tell them where to go. Please note that the role of the Sheriff is to act as legal “muscle” of the court - they are not ceremonial as they are in the UK nor county police as they are in the US.

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    This answer hinges on the presumption that whichever method of contacting the witness is available may be sufficient to serve on them according to the rules. It is a premise of the question though that locating the witness is mandatory. There is no room here for the realisation that locating them is not necessary.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 24 at 22:13

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