Search Warrants, Subpoenas, and Danish Existentialism

The “what-to-do-when-the-FBI-shows up” spiel is, admittedly, a well-worn trope on the white-collar panel-discussion circuit, a talk accompanied by coffee in styrofoam cups (in the morning) or dry chicken-breasts on buffet steam-tables (in the evening).  Unless the audience is virginal in its dalliance with law enforcement, the shock effect of talking about search warrants is lost, and the delivery becomes boring, leading us to that nineteenth-century Danish existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard.

The despairing refusal to finish the seminar.

Yet, the subject is a serious one for corporations and for individual businesspersons.  As we have noted before, law-enforcement techniques — including search warrants — that were once limited to organized crime, drug dealers or motorcycle gangs are now used with greater frequency against businesses.  Many employees do not know the distinctions between subpoenas and search warrants, a distinction that can have critical consequences for the organization, depending on how we respond.  And few things in business life are more disruptive than the execution of a search warrant on the office or at the plant.

With the help of  John Connelly at Legal Filmworks Unlimited, here is a 5-minute video summary of the important points about search warrants and subpoenas:

Subpoenas and Search Warrants, Jack Sharman from LFW on Vimeo.

As the Grateful Dead noted:

“Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again/I’d like to get some sleep before I travel/But if you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.”

(from “Truckin”) (1970):