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Subpoenas, Court Orders and Search Warrants

Updated: 09/15/2014

What do I do if I receive a subpoena, court order or search warrant?

Notify the Office of General Counsel (OGC) immediately and provide them with a copy of the subpoena, court order or search warrant. Also, do not attempt to respond to, contact or discuss the matter with the issuing/serving party without informing and seeking guidance from OGC. 

Can OGC assist with subpoenas, court orders or search warrants unrelated to my work for NC State?

No. OGC can only advise individuals with subpoenas, court orders and search warrants received concerning matters within an individual's scope of employment as an employee of NC State. For any subpoenas, court orders or search warrants seeking information outside the scope of employment, University employees should seek private legal counsel.

What is a “subpoena”?

Although typically filled out by an attorney, a subpoena is an official request issued from a court. A judge may find an individual in contempt of court for not complying with a subpoena.

What can be requested in a subpoena?

A subpoena may require someone to do a number of things, including testifying at a trial or other proceeding, or produce records relevant to a legal matter.

Can a subpoena be blocked or cancelled so that I need not respond?

Sometimes.  Examples of this type of situation include when the requesting party asks for privileged or confidential information, or when the subpoena doesn’t allow enough time to respond.  Contact OGC to discuss these topics if you receive a subpoena. 

What is a “court order”?

A court order is a legal command issued by a judge or other judicial official. Court orders are sometimes referred to by other names such as magistrate’s order, search warrant, show cause order, order to appear, summons or clerk’s order. A judge or other judicial official may find an individual in contempt of court for not complying with a court order.

What can be requested in a court order?

A judge may order any act or omission to advance or enforce the court’s lawful judgments. Thus, almost any act or omission can be demanded in a court order.

What is a “search warrant”?

A search warrant is a type of court order directing a law enforcement officer to search designated premises, vehicles or persons for the purpose of seizing and accounting for specific items.

How is a search warrant used?

A search warrant is typically used to facilitate a law enforcement agency’s investigation of a crime.

What items can be seized under a search warrant?

Any items which are evidence of criminal conduct, stolen, or unlawfully possessed can be seized with a search warrant.   

Who may issue a search warrant?

Typically, judges issue search warrants. Other judicial officials, such as magistrates or clerks of court, may issue search warrants in certain circumstances.

Want to learn more?

N.C.G.S. § 1A-1, Rule 45 (Subpoenas)

N.C.G.S. § 15A (Criminal Procedure Act)