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Civil Process

One of the most important duties of the Sheriff has always been to serve and execute the various processes issued by and for the Courts of North Carolina. The Sheriff shares, with other law enforcement agencies in the county and the state, the responsibility of serving criminal papers such as warrants, criminal summons, juvenile summons, and orders for arrest. However, for civil cases and processes, the responsibility is held by the Sheriff alone.


English common law advised that "no suit could begin and no process be served by anyone but the sheriff." Civil process means summons, writs, subpoenas, orders, executions, claim and delivery of specific property, domestic violence orders, custody orders, writs of possession, and other processes issued by the civil courts to assist them in carrying out the functions assigned to them by our state laws.



"Service of process" is defined as the delivering of the papers to the party or to a responsible party in person or at the residence of the person being served. The Civil Division serves an average of 8,500 civil papers per year.  


Many inquiries the Burke County Sheriff's Office receives relate to disputes of money amounts less than $4,000.00. The public has many questions concerning landlord/tenant relationships and the procedures for eviction, non-payment of bills or money loaned, re-acquiring property now in possession of another, or other money disputes. These questions are usually rectified by the complainant filing suit against the offending party.


To begin the process, the complainant or "plaintiff" must have a magistrate's summons issued at the Clerk of Court's Office. It is the duty of the Sheriff to see that the summons is served, giving notice to the defendant that he is being sued and that a court hearing is scheduled for a certain date. After the hearing in magistrate's court, a magistrate will enter judgment and more papers may possibly be issued to enforce the court's ruling.


Disputes involving more than $4,000.00 but less than $10,000.00 are heard in District Court and over $10,000.00 are heard in Superior Court. These court actions begin with a civil summons issued by the Clerk of Court and delivered to the defendant. Although there are other means of service, almost all processes are delivered to the Civil Division of the Sheriff's Office for service.


The Burke County Sheriff's Office Civil Division is composed of a Lieutenant, Sergeant, and three deputies. These officers must be part bloodhound in locating people who have moved several times since the original bill was incurred. The job requires computer skills, an ability to deal with people in a courteous manner, initiative, math skills, and the desire to work hard to complete the task at hand.




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