§56-3-33a. Actions against nonresident persons by petitioners seeking domestic violence or personal safety relief; service of process; authorizing Secretary of State to receive process against nonresidents.
(a) Any person who is:
(1) Not a resident of this state; or
(2) A resident of this state who has left this state; or
(3) A person whose residence is unknown shall be considered to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as to any action arising from the conduct specified in subsection (b) of this section, if such conduct was:
(A) Committed in this state; or
(B) If such conduct was not committed in this state if the conduct was purposely directed at a resident and has an effect within this state.
(b) Conduct compelling application of this section consists of:
(1) Any act constituting domestic violence or abuse as defined in section two hundred two, article twenty-seven, chapter forty-eight of this code; or
(2) Any act constituting a basis for seeking personal safety relief as defined in section four, article eight, chapter fifty-three of this code; or
(3) Any act or omission violating the provisions of a duly authorized protective or restraining order, whether issued by this state or another jurisdiction, for the protection of any person within this state.
(c) Any person subject to or considered to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state who is made a respondent in an action may be served with the petition and order initiating such action either:
(1) By law-enforcement officers, wherever the respondent may be found, whether inside or outside the boundaries of this state; or
(2) If the respondent is alleged to have committed conduct specified in subsection (b) of this section, this shall be considered equivalent to an appointment by such nonresident of the Secretary of State, or his or her successor in office, to be his or her true and lawful attorney upon whom may be served all lawful process in any action or proceeding against him or her, in any court in this state, for a cause of action arising from or growing out of such conduct, and the engaging in such conduct is a signification of such nonresident’s agreement that any such process against him or her, which is served in the manner hereinafter provided, is of the same legal force and validity as though such nonresident were personally served within this state.
(A) Such service shall be made by leaving two copies of both the petition and order, with the Secretary of State, or in his or her office, and such service shall be sufficient upon such nonresident: Provided, That notice of such service and a copy of the petition and order shall forthwith be sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, by a means which may include electronic issuance and acceptance of electronic return receipts, by the Secretary of State to the respondent at his or her nonresident address and the respondent’s return receipt signed by himself or herself or his or her duly authorized agent or the registered or certified mail so sent by the Secretary of State which is refused by the addressee and which registered or certified mail is returned to the Secretary of State, or to his or her office, showing thereon the stamp of the post-office department that delivery has been refused. After receiving verification from the United States Postal Service that acceptance of the notice, petition and order has been signed, the Secretary of State shall notify the clerk’s office of the court from which the petition and order were issued by a means which may include electronic notification. If the notice, petition and order were refused or undeliverable by the United States Postal Service, the Secretary of State shall create a preservation duplicate from which a reproduction of the stored record may be retrieved which truly and accurately depicts the image of the original record. The Secretary of State may destroy or otherwise dispose of the original returned or undeliverable mail. Written notice of the action by the Secretary of State must then be provided by certified mail, return receipt requested, facsimile, or by electronic mail, to the clerk’s office of the court from which the process, notice or demand was issued. If any respondent served with a petition and order fails to appear and defend at the time and place set forth in the order, judgment may be rendered against him or her at any time thereafter. The court may order such continuances as may be reasonable to afford the respondent an opportunity to defend the action or proceeding.
(B) As provided in section three hundred eight, article twenty-seven, chapter forty-eight of this code regarding domestic violence proceedings and in section thirteen, article eight, chapter fifty-three of this code regarding personal safety proceedings, no fees may be charged for service of petitions or orders until the matter is brought before the appropriate court for final resolution. Any fees ordinarily remitted to the Secretary of State or to a law-enforcement agency at the time of service shall be deferred and taxed in the costs of the action or proceeding.
(C) Data and records regarding service maintained by law-enforcement agencies and by the office of the Secretary of State for purposes of fulfilling the obligations of this section are not public records subject to disclosure under the provisions of article one, chapter twenty-nine-b of this code.
(d) The following words and phrases, when used in this section, shall for the purpose of this section and unless a different intent be apparent from the context, have the following meanings:
(1) “Duly authorized agent” means and includes among others a person who, at the direction of or with the knowledge or acquiescence of a nonresident, engages in such act or acts and includes among others a member of the family of such nonresident or a person who, at the residence, place of business or post office of such nonresident, usually receives and receipts for mail addressed to such nonresident.
(2) “Nonresident” means any person who is not a resident of this state or a resident who has moved from this state subsequent to engaging in such acts or acts covered by this section.