Hafemeyer Law

Can I Go to Jail for an Unpaid Debt?

Long ago, there were debtor’s prisons. Individuals who could not pay their debts were sent to jail until the debt was paid in full. This practice was long ago discontinued. Today, the typical path that a creditor takes to pursue collection of a debt is to file a collection suit with the court. Once a suit has been filed, the defendant, the debtor, has a limited amount of time to respond to the suit. This response is called an answer. The debtor is also expected to show up for a hearing regarding the debt. Failure to show up for the hearing will likely result in a default judgment in favor of the creditor against the debtor.

A default judgment is filed and the creditor can demand that the debtor produce information regarding financial assets and income. This is in the form of an order from the court. If the debtor fails to comply with the court order, the judge may find that the debtor is in contempt of court and issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the debtor to compel them to come before the court and produce the ordered information.

This practice is rare, but the key in this type of matter is to be sure to respond to any legal summons in some manner. Ignoring the summons will not make it go away and could have lasting consequences. If a debtor finds themselves in this situation the best thing to do is to seek advice from legal counsel or show up for the hearing. Even if the complaint and summons are accurate, the court has a greater aptitude for assisting a debtor that shows up to the hearing and takes responsibility in the matter. Sticking your head in the sand and wishing the matter will go away is not a good choice.

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