Civil Bureau

 

Sonoma County Sheriff Department
Civil Bureau
2796 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Civil Bureau Manager: Monique Chapman

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

Hours: 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays


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 facially valid, 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).  

 

Sheriff’s Instruction on filling out Forms
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 you are asking the Sheriff to serve or execute. For example, at a minimum you are required to identify the process or notice you want served or executed, the name and service address of the individual/judgment debtor, a detailed description of any property sought, the relevant code section and must be signed and dated by the plaintiff or attorney of record.  

 

Certain types of levies, such a real property levy and sale, require very specific instructions. You should be familiar with the specific legal requirements of your process or notice before you submit your paperwork.

 

The following Sheriff Instruction Forms are available to assist you in providing the information we need to process your request. They do not address every situation. Click to view and print the form.  

 

Civil Forms

Application for Earnings Withholding Order http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/ External Link
All Judicial Council forms are available at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/ External Link

 

Sheriff Instruction Forms 

General Service of Process Instructions pdf

General Service of Process Instructions - Spanish pdf

Small Claims Service Instructions pdf

TRO Service Instructions (Temporary Restraining Order) pdf

TRO Service Instructions (Temporary Restraining Order) - Spanish pdf

Eviction pdf

Bank Levy pdf

Personal Property Levy pdf

Real Property Levy pdf

Keeper Levy pdf

Civil Bench Warrant pdf

Application for Earnings Withholding Order http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/ 

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

Fees  
The Sheriff is required by law to charge fees for most civil process and enforcement of judgment actions. Fees must be paid in advance. Sheriff’s fees 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. (Government Code 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 your 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 within a reasonable time 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 (Government Code 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

$35.00

 

 

 

Out of State Courts

All Court Process

$45.00

 

   

 LEVY

Bank and Third Party Levy  (simple garnishments)

$35.00

Civil Bench Warrant 

$120.00

Earnings Withholding Order 

$30.00

Eviction 

$125.00

Keeper Levy (8 hours) or Til Tap (Plus deposit if seizing property)

$225.00*

Keeper Levy (8-12 hours)  (Plus deposit if seizing property)

$365.00*

Open Safe Deposit Box  (Plus drilling costs and deposit if seizing property)

$125.00*

Writ of Attachment – Personal Property Levy -  Simple Garnishment 

$35.00

Writ of Attachment – Personal Property Levy  - Complex Seizure Deposit  

$1200.00*

Writ of Attachment – Real Property Levy Deposit

$500.00 *

Writ of Execution / Money Judgment –  Personal Property Levy Deposit

$1200.00*

Writ of Execution / Money Judgment –  Real Property Levy Deposit

$1200.00*

Writ of Possession / Personal Property (Post Judgment) Deposit

$1200.00*

Writ of Possession – Claim and Delivery (Pre Judgment ) Deposit

$1200.00*

Writ of Sale – Real or Personal Property Levy Deposit

$1200.00*

Vehicle Levy Deposit

$1200.00*

 

*Initial deposit. An additional deposit may be required once the case is reviewed.

 

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 Department 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 30 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. This fee is added to the fees charged for processing civil papers (Government Code 26746).

 

Legal Advice
Only an attorney is allowed to give legal advice. Any information that we provide should not be construed as legal advice. If you have a legal question, please contact an attorney.

 

Service of Process
The Sonoma County Sheriff serves all Service of Process. The following is a brief description of some of the more common types of service processes.

 

1. Order For Examination Of Judgment Debtor
If you have a judgment against a person, but are unaware of the debtor's assets, you can go to the court and get an Order for Examination of a Judgment Debtor. An Order for Examination of a Judgment Debtor requires the 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 is required to appear on a date and location specified in the order and will be required to answer questions concerning his financial assets. Boldface lettering on the bottom of the order informs the debtor that a failure to appear may result in a civil bench warrant being issued for the debtor's arrest.

 

Use the General Service of Process instruction form pdf 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 pdf for this type of service. (Spanish)

 

3. Small claims - claim of plaintiff  
A civil action is commenced in the Small Claims Court by the plaintiff’s filing of a claim with the court. The court may require the service of the claim on the defendant, and after service is effected, issue an order which sets the hearing date, which must be served on all parties; or alternatively, 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 n the defendant. (CCP 116.340)

 

Use the Small Claims Service instruction form pdf 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 having a copy of the claim served 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 pdf for this type of service. 

 

WRITS  
There are four types of post-judgment writs and two types of pre-judgment writs. The Sonoma County Sheriff serves and executes all Pre-Judgment Writs, all Post-Judgment Writs and all Turnover Orders. The following is a brief description of the various writs and a few of the more common types of levies.

 

Post-judgment writs

Writ of Execution /  Money Judgment
When a person wins a case in court and receives a money judgment, the judgment creditor may have the court clerk issue a writ of execution. The writ of execution gives the levying officer authority to levy upon the judgment debtor's assets. The judgment creditor will instruct the levying officer to levy upon the judgment debtor's interest in either real or personal property to satisfy the money judgment. After a levy has been made, the property (other than money) is sold for the purpose of satisfying the money judgment. A levy on the debtor's property must occur within 180 days from the date the writ was issued.

 

Common Levies


1. Earnings Witholding Order - EWO  
An Earnings Withholding Order requires an employer to withhold the nonexempt 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 supply the name and address of the judgment debtor's employer.

The Application for Earnings Withholding Order (Judicial Council form WG-001) is a mandatory form and 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 may be obtained from the from the Judicial Council web site http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/

 

Use the WG-001 form at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/

 

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 supply 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, you will need to supply additional documents to be delivered 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 pdf 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 supply an adequate description of the property  including the legal description and common street address, if any; whether the debtor has a leasehold interest, and whether, or not, 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 Personal Property Levy instruction form pdf 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. 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 a court order authorizing the levying officer to enter the private place to take custody of the property.

 

Use the Personal Property Levy instruction form pdf 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 Code of Civil Procedure for the current exemption amount.

 

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

 

6. Keeper Levy
A Sheriff's Keeper (a civilian employee of the Sheriff) is 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 Levy on a Debtor's Going Business instruction form pdf 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 writ process 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 Levy on a Debtor's Going Business instruction form pdf for this type of levy.  

 

Writ of Possession / Real Property - Eviction
A Writ of Possession of Real Property is commonly referred to as the Eviction Writ. This writ enables the levying officer to satisfy the 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.

 

You will be notified of the date and time the eviction is to take place. You or your 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 prior to the lockout date.

 

You 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 by the former tenants. Be prepared to wait up to one hour for the deputy to arrive. Difficulties that occur during previous evictions will occasionally create unforeseen delays to 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, you should contact your local police or the sheriff to report that a trespass is occurring. 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 require subsequent written/signed instructions to cancel.

 

Use the Eviction Levy instruction form pdf 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 of the writ 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: Do not confuse this post-judgment writ of possession of personal property with its pre-judgment cousin writ of possession /claim and delivery.)

 

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

 

Pre-judgment writs


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 pdf for this type of levy. 

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

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

Use the Levy on a Debtor's Going Business instruction form pdf for this type of levy. 

 

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. The purpose of a Claim & Delivery is to recover personal property being unlawfully detained rather than securing property for the payoff of a possible judgment. After holding the property ten days, the levying officer delivers 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 pdf for this type of levy.

 

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