Can you be jailed for not paying a debt? 25 Answers as of July 11, 2013

I owe $4000 on a vehicle. If they sue me and I can't pay can I get thrown in jail? I wrecked my car before I was able to pay it off and now owe a lot of money. I can't get a job that will be able to pay that off and pay for child care. They have threatened to have me thrown in jail and with a new born at home this terrifies me!

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Dan Shay Law
Dan Shay Law | Daniel Shay
No, there has not been a debtors prison in America since 1833. Threatening jail time is a violation of the (R)FDCPA and you could sue the creditor. Contact a consumer rights attorney.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/14/2011
Rosenberg & Press
Rosenberg & Press | Max L. Rosenberg
Yes you can... But only if you live in England in the eighteenth century where debtors prison still exists. However if you bounce checks, that is a criminal offense. Fraud can also be a criminal offense. You may want to consult with an attorney so you can disclose all the details of your story. Also consult with a consumer attorney. You may have a fair debt collection practices act case that could net you as much as one thousand dollars.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 7/13/2011
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
You won't be thrown in jail. If anything, they can serve you with a supplemental exam and if you don't show up, then may be a warrant can be issued but the chances are small for that. It sounds like they are violating your rights under the FDCPA, and their violations are actionable. You should consult a local attorney and bring a FDCPA suit.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 7/11/2011
Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
They make illegal threats, but can't throw you in jail. You could file bankruptcy. Was there insurance? Did the creditor get that? Bankruptcy will remove any further liability for you.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 7/11/2011
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
There is no debtor's prison in the United States.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/4/2013
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC | Dennis J Sargent Jr.
    Not generally. If a creditor is threating with you jail time if you do not pay a bill than you may have an action for sanctions under your states collections practices act or possibly the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. This is the most horrific practice that debt collectors use, especially when they are dealing with individuals that have children. Contact an attorney right away and you can have the calls stopped and you may be entitle to sanctions for the actions.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C.
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C. | Carlos Gonzalez
    Civil suits and criminal cases are completely different, failure to pay a civil debt can only lead to a civil lawsuit, and not criminal charges. The only way criminal charges can arise if there are allegations of fraud or some criminality, otherwise money debts and criminal matters are completely different Nd the threat is an empty threat by an uneducated collector, technically the threats of imprisonment are illegal to make under fair debt collection practices and a suit may be filed against the company making such statements,
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus | Mark Markus
    No. Debtor's prisons were abolished in the 1800s.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/4/2013
    Raxter Law
    Raxter Law | Jeremiah Raxter
    You cannot be placed in jail for failure to pay a debt. If fact, if they are truly threatening you with jail, they are in fact breaking the law. You should consult an attorney. Good Luck!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Offices of Michael J. Berger
    Law Offices of Michael J. Berger | Michael J. Berger
    You can not be put in jail for failure to pay your car debt. If you are served with an Order to appear for examination of judgment debtor, you should appear and truthfully answer all questions to avoid the possibility of being arrested for failure to appear for the debtor examination.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    There hasn't been prison for debtors in the U.S. since 1789 when the Constiution was adopted by the 13 Colonies (except for spousal/child support and fines which are different kinds of debts). I would laugh when the debt collectors tell you that you are going to jail for unpaid bills. It is a violatio of federal and California fair debt collection practices laws also.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    The last time I read of someone being placed in jail for not paying a debt was in a Charles Dickens novel. No, a creditor cannot put you in jail for not paying a debt. They can sue and try to collect by attaching wages or banks accounts. Also, if it is a collection agency, a threat of placing someone in jail is a violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act as a creditor cannot threatened to take an action which it legally cannot take.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C.
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C. | Alexzander Adams
    You cannot go to jail for not paying your debts. If the creditor is threatening jail they are breaking federal and state collections laws. You may actually be able to sue the person trying to collect the debt. Look for an attorney that focuses on collections law.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Tucker Legal Clinic
    Tucker Legal Clinic | Samuel Tucker
    No, you will not be jailed for debt. It is illegal for a bill collector to threaten jail. You contact a consumer attorney to file a Fair Debt Collection claim.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Office of Nanina Takla
    Law Office of Nanina Takla | Nanina Takla
    Owing a debt is not a criminal matter and you can't be jailed for it. The creditor can sue you in court, get a judgment and, with that judgment, garnish your bank account and your wages. It is a violation of Oregon law for a creditor to threaten you with jail for non-payment of a debt; it is a violation of federal law for a debt collector to do the same.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    They are lying to you. Write down everything they said, who said it, and log the date and time of all calls. Take a picture of the incomeing calls. See a lawyer who handles Fair Debt Collection Pratice Act cases.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Colorado Legal Solutions
    Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
    You cannot be put in jail for merely failing to pay a debt. Who is making that threat? If it is a collection agency you need to speak to an attorney as such a threat is a clear violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and should be brought to a court's attention.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Office of Eric Ridley
    Law Office of Eric Ridley | Eric Ridley
    No, you cannot be taken to jail. We gave up debtor's prison when we gave up the King of England. However, if you are sued, and a judgment is rendered against you, the creditors can attach any assets you may have, for a long period of time. In addition, once a judgment is entered, if you receive an Order to Appear, and you fail to do so, you *can* be arrested. However, if a consumer debt creditor threatens to have you thrown in jail, they may have violated certain laws which protect you. That is a forbidden activity, and you should get advice from an attorney who handles credit law violations.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Office of Harry L Styron
    Law Office of Harry L Styron | Harry L Styron
    In the United States, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, you cannot be jailed for indebtedness. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten you in an attempt to collect a debt. You should probably report such a threat to the police where you live.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Ursula G. Barrios Law
    Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
    No jail on that debt.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis | Todd Mannis
    First, Debtors' prisons went by the wayside a couple hundred years ago, so you're not going to jail. Second, threatening you by telling you you'll go to jail is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Act, which is enforced by the FTC. Report that call or letter to them immediately. Third, is there any other debt, such as credit card debt. $4,000 isn't a huge amount in the overall scheme of things, and I'm not sure bankruptcy would be the first choice at this point, but perhaps if you had other debt it would make more sense.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Law Office of Jackie Robert Geller
    Law Office of Jackie Robert Geller | Jackie Robert Geller
    There's no more debtor's prisons. No jail for unpaid debts.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/4/2013
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    Your creditors can do a lot but unless you hide the car from them in defiance of a court order, or fail to answer discovery if you are sued, jail isn't one of the options. Nonetheless they can grab your paycheck, bank account, etc. A smart move would be to see a bankruptcy lawyer who may be able to help you wipe out the debt completely if you qualify.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/8/2011
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
    No. You can't be thrown in jail for not paying a debt. The collection of this debt is a civil matter and absolutely does not involve jail. You tell that slime ball debt collector that you are reporting him for his threats and that he's going to jail.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2011
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