A subpoena is a legal request to either produce a person – for a trial or for a deposition – or to produce documents or other materials to the opposing party so that the other party can have time to examine those documents.
In North Carolina, subpoenas may be issued by an attorney, by a magistrate, a judge, or a clerk of the court. If you ever receive a subpoena, the first thing you should do is consider getting a lawyer. Why? Because you have a legal right to challenge a subpoena.
If the subpoena goes unchallenged, then you – generally – must comply with the terms of the subpoena.
But subpoenas can be challenged for all kinds of grounds. If the subpoena is too broad – asks for too much stuff that is not related to the criminal or civil case – it will be ruled over broad, and the presiding judge may quash (or strike) the subpoena, or may narrow its terms. If the subpoena asks for a great deal of stuff in a short amount of time, it may be deemed too burdensome for the person subpoena’d to comply.
If the subpoena asks for stuff that may be included in other, irrelevant, private, or confidential materials, the person subpoena’d may challenge the subpoena, and moved for it to be quashed. Or the court may order that the person turn the documents over to the judge in which case the judge will make an independent determination of what goes to the other party.
There are many reasons to challenge a subpoena, and you should talk to an attorney if someone or some agency has presented you with subpoena as soon as possible.