– Card Debt –
Can You Ever Go to Jail For Not Paying Card Debt? If you have debt, this could be running through your mind. Debt collectors can certainly be aggressive enough on the phone and through the mail. But how far can they really go?
You can’t be arrested just because you owe money on what you might think of as consumer debt: a credit card, loan, or medical bill. Legally, debt collectors can’t even threaten you with arrest.
But they do have other legal recourse, such as suing you for payment.
In some rare cases, this kind of debt can lead to arrest on other charges, such as fraud, theft or defying a court order.
What Are Credit Cards?
Credit cards are wallet-sized pieces of hard plastic used to pay for things. Payment processors can identify that Jane Doe, or whatever a debtor’s name is, is attempting to pay for something because the cashier swiped the magnetic strip on the card through the processor, allowing Jane to be identified.
These cards are convenient because they can be used virtually anywhere. Credit card companies make money by assigning interest rates to borrowers based on their credit reports and scores. People with bad credentials end up paying more than their counterparts do.
Each month, financial institutions that offer credit cards set a limit of how much money you can charge onto your account. This is your credit limit and it should not be exceeded. They make money even if some people don’t pay them back.
This is true because they hedge risk among every single customer, charging them relatively high-interest rates as a means to guarantee they will turn a profit at the end of the day.
What Types of Debt Could Lead to Imprisonment?
Some types of priority debt could result in you going to prison if you don’t pay. Some types of priority debt could result in you going to prison if you don’t pay. The first step may be applying for a liability order. Examples of priority debts that imprisonment could lead to include:
- Criminal fines
- Council tax
- Business rates
- Child maintenance arrears owed to the CSA
Even with these types of debt, prison is normally only possible as a last resort if you’ve ignored the debt or refused to pay.
For the majority of common debts, you can’t be sent to prison for not paying. The debts include:
- credit cards
- mortgage or rent arrears
- utility arrears
- hire purchase debts
Can You Really Go To Jail For Not Paying Your Credit Card Debt?
Every state in the United States, either by statute or constitutional provision, makes it illegal for you to go to jail if you can’t pay your debts.
However, there are loopholes, and debtors are exploiting them. The court system can use their authority to hold people in contempt of court. This includes people who don’t pay court-ordered installment plans or failure to comply with post-judgment orders.
The specifics surrounding this include:
- Some states allow courts to order you to either make payments or appear before the court. If you fail to comply, they can then hold you in civil contempt and issue a warrant for your arrest.
- Some states allow creditors to sue people for payments. When you can’t pay the debt, the court will order a warrant for your arrest for not complying with a court order. Your bail amount is typically the amount you owe.
- If you have a debt from a payday lender, they can threaten or pursue arrest if your payment checks defaults or bounces. They do this by saying that you were intentionally defrauding them.
- Furniture and appliance stores that specialize in rent to own can request an arrest warrant from the courts if you default on your payments and don’t return the furniture or appliances.
The short answer is yes. Debt collectors can exploit loopholes and make people who owe debts go to jail by using the court’s power. However, payment arrangements can typically satisfy the court without you going to jail.
Are There Any Situations Where Other Debts Could Lead to Prison?
There are also some situations where you could be arrested and taken to court, or sent to jail after a creditor has taken you to court. This is very rare and would only happen as a last resort if you’ve not cooperated with the court.
For example, if you live in England or Wales and you’ve not paid a County Court judgment (CCJ), a creditor could apply to take money from your wages using an attachment of earnings.
If you repeatedly ignore the letters the court sends you about this, a bailiff could be sent to take you to court, and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 14 days.
The fine or prison is a punishment for disobeying the court’s instructions, not for the debt itself.
However, in the past, we’ve seen some examples of misleading letters from creditors referring to this.
Other than some priority debts mentioned above, any suggestion by a creditor that you could be sent to prison for not paying a debt is simply not true, and if they threaten this you should consider making a complaint.
- If you receive a notice or orders from the court, do not ignore it. Take these notices seriously.
- Consult with a local consumer attorney or your state attorney general’s consumer division.
- Contact the consumer protection agencies: The FTC or CFPB.
You can go to jail for credit cards and civil debt thanks to loopholes. Americans have a lot of debt, and that debt total is rising. If you have debt, don’t ignore it.
Instead, contact your creditors and work out a payment arrangement. You can help dig yourself out of debt this way, and you’ll get back to a healthier financial future.
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