Debt Collection: Part 1

One of the questions that I receive often is “Can I go to jail for not paying my bills?” The simple answer is no, but like most answers, there are always exceptions (like child support or tax evasion). Simply owing taxes is not criminal and will not lead to an arrest, just penalties and interest. However, failing to pay court fees and penalties can sometimes lead to an arrest and jail time.

The concept of debtors’ prisons did exist in this country. In 1833 debtors’ prisons were banned under federal law. In 1983, 150 years later, the Supreme Court addressed the issue and found it unconstitutional as it violated the 14th Amendment. Falling into financial hardship is not a crime and we will work with you and treat you with respect as we guide you on a path to eliminate your debt with dignity. 

Fun fact: Two signatories of the Declaration of Independence spent time in jail for failing to repay loans. Two of our founding fathers. Who knew?

So if you are behind on your credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, or your mortgage, rest assured that you will not go to jail. Creditors do have certain rights under federal and state law and are afforded an opportunity to collect. However, debtors also have rights and there are many consumer protection laws in place to protect us from overly aggressive and abusive actions. 

You may receive phone calls (within limits), letters, and creditors can commence lawsuits to collect on the debt. These lawsuits are civil actions and can result in money judgments only – not jail time. Judgments can be enforced through wage garnishments, restraints on bank accounts, and liens on property. Again, no jail.

In our next blog post we will discuss debt collection in greater detail, including what creditors can and cannot do along with what debtors can do to protect themselves.

If you are struggling to manage your debt or want to explore options to eliminate your debt quicker, reach out and see how we can assist.

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Zimmelman Law PLLC

With over ten years of experience, Matthew D. Zimmelman, Esq. has helped thousands become debt-free and saved countless New Yorkers from losing their homes in foreclosure. Whether you are an individual or a small business, looking to file bankruptcy or looking to eliminate your debt without filing bankruptcy, we are here to help you get a fresh start.
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