Can you go to Jail for Debt?

Many years ago there was such a thing as Debtors’ Prison. People who fell behind on their debts who were unable to pay creditors would be put in jail. Most people assume now, in modern times, debt can be stressful and frustrating, but it’s unlikely to land you in jail. But is that really true?

No More Debtors’ Prison

In the USA, there is no longer any such thing as debtors’ prison. Creditors can pursue legal options to collect on debts, but having a debtor sent to jail is not one of them. Instead, they are able to file lawsuits, enact foreclosures and repossessions, and use things like wage garnishment and liens to collect their debts.

First, you won’t just be sent to jail. Several things will occur and you’ll be given warning that you need to meet your obligations regarding a debt long before you’re ever ordered to spend a night in jail. It’s a process that includes plenty of opportunities to make right on your situation, even if you are unable to pay your debt in full.

Motion for Contempt           

Just about the only way to go to jail for debt, other than past due child support, is to be held in contempt of court during a debt lawsuit or judgment proceeding.  For this to happen you generally have to violate a court order.

The most common court order that is violated is failing to respond to discovery, failing to appear in Court when ordered, or failing to appear at a deposition.  Still to get to this point, usually you are ordered by way of a motion to compel and then a motion for contempt.

In short, yes you can be sent to jail for debt, but usually it’s because you violated a Court order.  This is why it’s important to hire experience debt lawsuit counsel.

For more information on debt lawsuits or judgments contact us at Weston Legal.

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