Service of process is usually accomplished by the sheriff, within the county or city boundaries of his jurisdiction, or by private process server within the state of Virginia. Service of a warrant must be made not more than 60 days and not less than 5 days before the return day, or not less than ten days before the return day of an Unlawful Detainer. Service on an out-of-state defendant can be made by certified mail through the Secretary of the Commonwealth. At least 6 weeks should be allowed for the return date when service is requested through the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Most types of civil processes in the General District Court can be served by private process server. Exceptions, which must be served by a sheriff, include any Writ of Eviction, Levy, or Capias. The Code of Virginia is very specific as to the manner of service (see §8.01-296) and how return of service is made to the Clerk's Office (see §8.01-325).
A return by a private process server should follow the same progressive order as found on the sheriff's return on the back of the state forms. The state form, "Service Other Than by VIrginia Sheriff" (form DC-411), may be downloaded here and used for the return by a private process server. The Code specifies that the person serving process make return to the Clerk's Office within 72 hours of service (see §8.01-294).