Contact Information

Monique Chapman, Civil Bureau Manager

2796 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Phone:   (707) 565-2751
Fax:        (707) 526-0403

Hours of operation:  Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM, excluding holidays.

Overview

The Civil Bureau serves process and executes levies. Pursuant to Government Code 26608, the Sheriff is required to serve and execute all process and notices in the manner prescribed by law. Process and notices are defined in Government code 26660 as:  (a) "process" includes all writs, warrants, summons, and orders of courts of justice, or judicial officers, and (b) "Notice" includes all papers and orders required to be served in any proceedings before any court, board, or officer, or when required by law to be served independently of such proceeding.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Civil Bureau serves and enforces all Civil process and notices provided they are valid on their face, issued by a competent authority, and accompanied by adequate legal instructions and fees or deposits. The statutes that govern the service, execution and enforcement of Civil process and notices can be found in the Penal Code (PC), Family Code (FC), Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) and Government Code (GC).

NOTE: Any paperwork received that is incorrect and/or incomplete will be returned to the requesting party identifying areas that require correction.

Instructions

A letter of instruction must accompany all process or notices brought to the Sheriff for service or enforcement (CCP 262, 684.130, 687.010 etc.). This letter of instruction is required by law and must include information specific to the type of process or notice the Sheriff is requested to serve and/or execute. At minimum instructions should include the process or notice to be served and/or executed, the name and service address of the individual/judgment debtor, a detailed description of any property sought, the relevant code section(s), and must be signed and dated by the plaintiff or attorney of record. The requesting party should be familiar with the specific legal requirements of the process or notice prior to submitting paperwork.

The following Sheriff Instruction Forms are available to assist in providing the information needed to process the request.  

Civil Forms

All Judicial Council forms are available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm

Sheriff Instruction Forms 

General Service of Process Instructions

General Service of Process Instructions - Español

Small Claims Service Instructions

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Service Instructions

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Service Instructions - Español

Eviction

Bank Levy

Personal Property Levy

Real Property Levy

Keeper Levy

Civil Bench Warrant
 

Fees

The Sheriff is required by law to charge fees for most Civil processes and enforcement of judgment actions. Fees must be paid in advance and are set in accordance with the California Government Code 26720 et seq. The Sheriff is entitled to his fees whether or not service/execution was successful (GC 26736; 26738). Any fees paid to the Sheriff's will increase the total amount to satisfy the judgment.

Deposits

In addition to fees for service, an additional deposit may be required to execute the levy.  Levy deposits are estimates of costs based upon the combination of statutory fees and anticipated expenses related to performing a particular type of levy. Additional deposits may be required in order to offset the actual expenses related to the handling of inventory, moving, safekeeping of property and conducting execution sales. A deposit, sufficient to pay the costs of seizing and storing property, is a prerequisite to the performance of any levy by the Sheriff's Civil Bureau. Any portion of the creditor's deposit that is not actually used will be refunded to the judgment creditor after completion of all enforcement efforts. Any deposit paid to the Sheriff's deposit will increase the total amount to satisfy the judgment.

Additional Charges

The Sheriff will charge for the actual expenses incurred for the inspection, checking, releasing or any other handling of property under his custody, charge or keeping pursuant to any process, writ, order, paper, or notice, and actual postal charges paid for mailing by registered mail or certified mail any notice or demand required or authorized by law to be sent registered mail or certified mail (GC 26748). Additional charges paid to the Sheriff will increase the total amount to satisfy the judgment.

Fee and Deposit Schedule

Service of Process

California Courts - all Court process                                                                                                                                $40.00

Out of State Courts - all Court process (includes Notary fee)                                                                                      $50.00

Levy

Bank and Third Party Levy (simple garnishments)                                                                                                        $40.00

Civil Bench Warrant                                                                                                                                                          $140.00

Earnings Withholding Order                                                                                                                                             $35.00

Eviction                                                                                                                                                                              $145.00

Keeper Levy (8 hours)                                                                                                                                                     $240.00

Keeper Levy (8-12 hours)                                                                                                                                                $400.00

Till Tap                                                                                                                                                                               $100.00

Writ of Attachment – Personal Property Levy                                                                                                               $40.00

Writ of Attachment – Real Property Levy Deposit                                                                                                     $500.00*

Writ of Execution / Money Judgment –  Personal Property Levy Deposit                                                              $100.00*

Writ of Execution / Money Judgment –  Real Property Levy Deposit                                                                   $1,200.00*

Writ of Possession / Personal Property (Post-Judgment) Deposit                                                                           $100.00*

Writ of Possession – Claim and Delivery (Pre-Judgment ) Deposit                                                                         $100.00*

Writ of Sale – Real or Personal Property Levy Deposit                                                                                          $1,200.00*

Vehicle Levy Deposit                                                                                                                                                     $100.00*

*Initial deposit. Additional funds may be required once the file is reviewed and actual costs are determined. All fees shall be paid prior to services rendered.

PLEASE NOTE: New fees effective January 1, 2015.

 

Sheriff Sales

Sheriff’s Sale Notices are posted on the public bulletin board located at the Hall of Justice, 600 Administration Dr., Santa Rosa, CA. The Sheriff's Office does not maintain a mailing list for auctions. Prospective bidders should refer to Section 701.510 to 701.680, inclusive of the Civil Code of Procedure (CCP) for provisions governing the terms, conditions, and effect of the sale and the liability of defaulting bidders (CCP 701. 547). 

Disbursement of Funds

Monies received by the Sheriff from a levy are held a minimum of 21 days before being released for disbursement to the judgment creditor or refunded to the judgment debtor. Statutory legal time frames may apply that result in longer hold periods. A $12.00 processing fee is assessed for every disbursement of money collected under a writ (GC 26746).

Legal Advice

Only an attorney may give legal advice. Any information provided by Sheriff's Office personnel should not be construed as legal advice. All legal questions should be directed to an attorney.

Service of Process

Following is a brief description of some of the more common types of service processes.

1. Order For Examination Of Judgment Debtor

An Order for Examination requires a judgment debtor to appear before the Court to furnish information to aid in the enforcement of a money judgment. The order informs the debtor that he/she is required to appear on a date and location specified in the order and will be required to answer questions concerning his/her financial assets.

Use the General Service of Process instruction form for this type of service.

2. Order To Show Cause / Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

An Order to Show Cause is a notice of motion and a citation to the party to appear at a stated time and place, to show cause why the motion should not be granted. When a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is added to the Order to Show Cause (OSC), it restricts certain listed activities, as stated on the order, from the date of service until the time of the hearing.

Use the TRO Service of Process instruction form for this type of service.

3. Small Claims - Claim of plaintiff  

A Small Claims action begins with the plaintiff filing a claim with the Court. The Court may require the service of the claim on the defendant, and subsequently issue an order which sets the hearing date which also must be served on all parties. Alternatively the Court may issue an order at the time of the filing of the claim which sets the hearing date, in which case both the claim and the order must be served on the defendant (CCP 116.340).

Use the Small Claims Service instruction form for this type of service. 

4. Small Claims - Claim of Defendant

A defendant in a Small Claims action may counter sue the plaintiff by filing a claim with the Court and by serving a copy of the claim on the plaintiff. Both matters may then be decided by the Court in one hearing (CCP 116.360).

Use the Small Claims Service instruction form for this type of service. 

Writs

The Sheriff serves and executes all pre- and post-judgment writs. Following is a brief description of the more common types of writs.

Writ of Execution /  Money Judgment

When the Court orders a money judgment, the judgment creditor may request that the Court issue a writ of execution. The writ of execution directs the levying officer to levy upon the judgment debtor's assets. The judgment creditor should instruct the levying officer to levy upon the judgment debtor's interest in either real or personal property to satisfy the money judgment. After the levy is executed, the Sheriff will sell the property for the purpose of satisfying the money judgment. The levy must be executed no later than 180 days from the date the writ was issued.

1. Earnings Witholding Order - EWO  

An Earnings Withholding Order requires an employer to withhold a non-exempt portion of the debtor's earnings for payment directly to the levying officer. The employer deducts a certain percentage of the debtor's wages and sends it to the levying officer. The levying officer makes periodic disbursements to the judgment creditor and applies the amount(s) received toward satisfaction of the judgment. The judgment creditor must provide the name and address of the judgment debtor's employer.

The Application for Earnings Withholding Order (WG-001) must be used to request this type of levy. An Earnings Withholding Order remains in effect until either the judgment is satisfied, the debtor ceases to work for that employer, or an order of higher priority takes effect (such as an Earnings Withholding Order for child support). 

The WG-001 form can be accessed at http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm

2. Bank Levy

A judgment debtor's deposit account or safe deposit box may be levied upon under a Writ of Execution (money judgment). The levy reaches only those funds or property held at the time the levy is served upon the specific bank branch where the account is maintained. The judgment creditor must provide the levying officer with the name and address of the bank or financial institution to be served. The specific account number is not required for a bank levy. However, if the deposit account stands in the name of the judgment debtor and the debtor's spouse, other person(s), or in a fictitious business name, additional documents will be required to deliver to the bank at the time of the levy. Refer to CCP 700.160 for specific information regarding these additional documents.

Use the Bank Levy instruction form for this type of levy.  

3. Real Property Levy

The judgment debtor's interest in real property may be levied upon and sold under a Writ of Execution to satisfy a money judgment. The judgment creditor must provide an adequate description of the property  including the legal description and common street address, specify whether the debtor has a leasehold interest, and specify whether the property contains a dwelling, is vacant land, or is commercial property. The instructions must also include the names and addresses of all other persons having an interest in the property as indicated by records of the County Assessor.

Use the Real Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy. 

4. Personal Property Levy

Personal property of the judgment debtor may be levied upon and sold under a Writ of Execution to satisfy a money judgment. The judgment creditor's instructions must specifically describe the property and its location in such detail that no other property could reasonably be mistaken for the property to be levied upon. A levy on personal property requires an initial deposit of funds in an amount sufficient to cover the costs of seizing, moving and safely storing the property until sold at execution sale and delivered to the successful bidder. The amount of the deposit will depend upon the type and quantity of items to be levied upon, and a deposit (determined by the Sheriff's Office) will be required prior to any services occurring. If an item of personal property sought to be levied upon is located in a private place (wherein Fourth Amendment protections are applicable), the judgment creditor may apply to the Court for an order authorizing the levying officer to enter the private place to take custody of the property.

Use the Personal Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy.  

5. Vehicle Levy

A judgment debtor's vehicle may be levied upon and sold under a Writ of Execution to satisfy a money judgment. The judgment creditor's instructions should describe the vehicle as thoroughly as possible. The instructions should include the license number, V.I.N. number, make, model, color and location of the vehicle. If the judgment debtor has only one motor vehicle, the debtor is entitled to an automatic exemption without filing a claim. This means that the debtor would receive the exempted amount from the proceeds of the execution sale. If no bids exceed the exempted amount, the vehicle would be released to the debtor. Consult the California Code of Civil Procedure for the current exemption amount.

Use the Personal Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy. 

6. Keeper Levy

A Sheriff's Keeper (a civilian employee of the Sheriff's Office) can be placed in a debtor-owned business to collect money resulting from sales and transactions. This type of levy is most often effective on retail type businesses that maintain a cash drawer (or register) and conduct over-the-counter sales. During the keeper period, the business may continue to operate in the ordinary course of business provided all sales are final and are for cash or its equivalent (i.e. checks). Keepers are customarily installed for periods of 8, 12, or 24 hours per day.

Use the Keeper Levy instruction form for this type of levy.

7. Till Tap

A Till Tap is a levy in which the Sheriff is instructed to go to the debtor-owned business and seize the money in the cash register. The levying deputy serves the levy on the judgment debtor or debtor's agent, explains the purpose of the levy, and then removes the cash and checks found in the cash register. This type of levy is most often effective on retail type businesses that maintain a cash drawer (or register) and conduct over-the-counter sales. The instructions must include the name of the judgment debtor's business and address.

Use the Keeper Levy instruction form for this type of levy.  

Writ of Possession / Real Property - Eviction

A Writ of Possession of real property is commonly referred to as an eviction. This type of writ enables the levying officer to satisfy a judgment by placing the judgment creditor in lawful and peaceful possession of specific land and appurtenant structures. A judgment for possession of real property may result from a tenant's non-payment of rent or a breach of the rental or lease contract. A writ of possession may issue at the conclusion of a Civil action for unlawful detainer.  The eviction process must be carried out according to the unlawful detainer laws that govern it.

The requestor will be notified of the date and time the eviction is to take place. The requestor or their designated agent must meet the Deputy at the location at the date and time of the scheduled lockout. The landlord is required to provide access to the premises by either key or locksmith. This must be arranged by the requestor prior to the lockout date.

The requestor or their designated agent should arrive about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled lockout time. Remain visible to the responding deputy but do not approach the residence. After the landlord has been placed into possession of the premises, it is recommended that the locks be changed to prevent re-entry. Be prepared to wait up to one hour for the deputy to arrive. Unanticipated difficulties that occur during previous evictions will occasionally create delays in the deputy's arrival.

The deputy will remove the occupants and provide the landlord with a signed restoration notice. This document serves as proof that possession has lawfully been restored to the landlord. Should the former tenant(s) return to the premises without your permission, local law enforcement authorities (according to jurisdiction) should be contacted to report a trespass. (NOTE: this may or may not be the Sheriff's Office.) Be prepared to show the restoration document to the responding law enforcement officer.

If the occupants vacate the premises prior to the scheduled lockout, and you wish to cancel the formal lockout procedure, we will accept your cancellation via facsimile followed by the original via first class mail. Cancellations by telephone will also require follow up with written/signed instructions to cancel.

Use the Eviction Levy instruction form for this type of levy.  

Writ of Possession / Personal Property

A judgment for possession of personal property may be enforced by a Writ of Possession of Personal Property. The purpose is to restore possession of specific item(s) of personal property to the judgment creditor. A Writ of Possession of Personal Property permits the levying officer to satisfy the judgment by seizing and delivering the specified property directly to the creditor. If the property cannot be found, or if delivery cannot be made, the writ may be returned to court and reissued as a money judgment writ for the value of the specific property. (NOTE: This post-judgment Writ of Possession of Personal Property is not to be confused with pre-judgment Writ of Possession / Claim and Delivery.)

Use the Personal Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy. 

Writ of Sale

A Writ of Sale is issued for the purpose of selling specific real or personal property. It is most commonly used to enforce a judicial foreclosure of a mortgage, deed or lien. The property is sold in conformance with the judgment for sale of the property. A Writ of Sale delivered to the levying officer must be accompanied by a certified copy of the judgment for sale.

Use the Real Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy.

Pre-judgment writs


1. Writ of Attachment

A Writ of Attachment is issued prior to judgment and is used to levy on the defendant's interest in real or personal property as authorized in the writ. The purpose of an attachment is to secure the defendant's assets to assure such assets remain available for execution at the time a final money judgment is entered. The Court may issue the writ upon the plaintiff establishing, to the Court's satisfaction, that there is "probable validity" that the plaintiff will prevail in the action and there is cause to believe that the defendant's assets may not be available at the time judgment is entered.

Use the Bank Levy instruction form, the Personal Property Levy instruction form, the Real  Property Levy instruction form, or the Keeper Levy instruction form depending on the type of levy being requested. 

2. Writ of Possession / Claim & Delivery

A Writ of Possession / Claim & Delivery is issued prior to judgment and permits the levying officer to seize specific personal property in possession of the defendant or the defendant's agent. A Claim & Delivery differs from a Writ of Attachment in that the purpose is to recover personal property being unlawfully detained rather than securing property for the payoff of a possible judgment. After holding the property ten (10) days, the levying officer will deliver the personal property to the plaintiff pending final disposition of the lawsuit. The Court may issue the writ upon the plaintiff establishing, to the Court's satisfaction, that there is "probable validity" that the plaintiff will prevail in the action and there is cause to believe that the specific property will not be available at the time judgment is entered.

Use the Personal Property Levy instruction form for this type of levy.