In Georgia, the answer is no—even though substituted service can be good service for a complaint. Service of a complaint and service of subpoenas are governed by different rules. Don’t get them mixed up!
When you need to subpoena an individual, the only ways to serve that individual are outlined in O.C.G.A. § 24-10-23. If you are seeking the testimony of a husband, but the process server hands the wife the subpoena, the court will not enforce that subpoena—such service is “fatally defective.” Even though the statute does not use the word “personal” to describe the proper service, case law does. See Lake v. Hamilton Bank of Dalton, 148 Ga. App. 348, 348-9 (1978); Heard v. Hopper, 233 Ga. 617, 618 (1975).
Even if it is the practice or custom to serve an individual through a representative (such as serving a police officer through a department representative), the Georgia Court of Appeals in a concurrence has noted that contempt for failure to respond to a subpoena can only stand when the subpoena is personally served. Apoian v. State, 313 Ga. App. 800 (2012).
Of course, you can also have the subpoena served by certified mail or “statutory overnight delivery,” which is defined in O.C.G.A. § 9-10-12(b). But in some cases—when the recipient rejects the Federal Express package, for example—you may be forced to use personal service. So be sure that you work with a qualified process server and obtain an affidavit of service so that you can enforce the subpoena.
Questions about subpoena service in federal court? See my post Subpoena service in federal court: courts are split, but personal is best.
(And if you are on the receiving end of a subpoena, you need to know what to do next.)
Originally published April 20, 2010; updated February 1, 2012.