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Can You Be Arrested for Debt?
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Can You Be Arrested for Debt?
You aren’t typically arrested for debts, only filed for a lawsuit, however in certain states, you could be detained for failure to comply with a court-ordered judgment.
By Sean Pyles Senior Writer | Personal finances and financial debt Sean Pyles leads podcasting at NerdWallet as the host and producer of the NerdWallet’s “Smart Money” podcast. In “Smart Money” Sean talks with Nerds on the NerdWallet Content team to answer listeners’ personal finance questions. With a focus on thoughtful and actionable money advice, Sean provides real-world guidance to help people improve in their finances. In addition to answering listeners’ financial questions on “Smart Money” Sean also interviews guests outside of NerdWallet and produces special segments to explore topics such as the racial gap in wealth, how to start investing, and the history for student loans.
Before Sean took over podcasting at NerdWallet the company, he also wrote about topics related to consumer debt. His work has been published throughout the media including USA Today, The New York Times as well as other publications. When when he’s not writing about personal finance, Sean can be found working in his garden, going for walks, or taking his dog for long walks. Sean is located within Ocean Shores, Washington.
Aug 5, 2021
Written by Kathy Hinson Lead Assigning Editor Personal finances, credit scoring debt and money management Kathy Hinson leads the core personal finance team at NerdWallet. In the past, she worked for 18 years at The Oregonian in Portland in positions such as copy desk chief and team director of design and editing. Prior experience includes news and copy editing for various Southern California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. She received a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and journalism at Iowa’s University of Iowa.
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You aren’t liable to arrest just because you have a debt that you would consider to be consumer debts: a credit card, loan or medical invoice. Legally, can’t even threaten you with arrest. But they do have other legal options like suing you to demand payments.
In some rare cases, this kind of debt could result in arrest for other charges, like theft, fraud, or defying a court’s order.
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The threat of arrest made by collectors are not legal
At one time, people could be imprisoned because they owed money, but debtors’ prisons were illegal within the United States since the mid-1800s.
Furthermore, the Act 1977 law prohibits debt collectors from intimidating or misleading consumers, including threatening arrest. In addition to rules on what collectors can say they can say, the law restricts how and when they can contact you.
But debt collectors may also use the legal system
Debt collectors can’t arrest you but they are able to pursue you for payment, and that’s often the most effective legal remedy. A multitude of civil lawsuits over debt are filed each year even with no evidence to confirm the amount due and who is liable.
A mere 10% of people who are in debt get an attorney representation when they’re sued for a debt. Some don’t even respond to lawsuits at all which usually results in a default judgment that can result in either a bank levy, or either.
If you’re sued by default.
If you are served with a court summons, do not ignore it. Sometimes, just attending the courthouse for the collection agency to prove it has sued the right person for the right amount is enough to get the case dismissed or settled for less.
Legal loopholes could lead to arrest
There are a couple of instances in which aggressive creditors can exploit legal loopholes to seek or threaten arrest for problems related to debt:
In about one third in states, debtors can be arrested if they fail to follow a court ruling that resulted from the filing of a lawsuit. Also the debtor won the case in court or failed to make an appearance, was told to pay, but failed to. The arrest is for defying the court, not for having to pay the debt.
Some payday lenders seek to pursue or threaten arrest if the consumer’s check for payment bounces and they typically claim that the check was fraudulently written.
Rent-to-own furniture firms sometimes seek the consumer who fails to pay but refuse to be able to return furniture.
What you can do
If you’re being harassed by a threatening debt collector:
Be cautious Make sure you know the facts, including whether the debt is yours and the amount is correct, by .
Be firm: Don’t be pressured into an uninformed decision. Take the time to figure out the best method to .
Make sure you are protected: Make a complaint about debt collectors who harass you to the .
About the author: Sean Pyles is the host and executive producer of NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast. His work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and elsewhere.
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