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Bankruptcy Law Blog

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can I Go To Jail For My Debts?

One of the reasons bankruptcy laws were enacted in America was to end the practice of jailing people who fell into debt. Debtors prisons just weren’t working out because people who are locked up can’t earn money to pay off their debts, and the families of people who were jailed ended up worse off. It also occurred to our Founding Fathers that harshly punishing people who take financial risks and fail will discourage people from taking risks, which stops growth and innovation.

Thanks to the enactment of bankruptcy laws, most people who go into debt do not have to worry about being jailed for it. However, there are some exceptions.

Tax Debt

Failure to pay your taxes is a crime. If you don’t pay your fair share to Uncle Sam, you could wind up in jail for tax evasion.

If you haven’t been committing massive fraud on purpose, and you agree to comply with a repayment plan, you can often avoid going to jail for tax debt. Fortunately, the government would rather have people out making money than locked away, costing the government even more money.

Failure To Pay Child Support

If you have been ordered by a court to make child support payments or alimony payments, and you refuse to do so, a judge can throw you in jail for contempt.

If you cannot afford to make the payments you have been ordered to make, you should file a motion to have your payments reduced. Try to pay as much as possible so the judge can see that you are making and effort and not just being a jerk.

Debt Collectors Who Threaten Jailtime Can Be Punished

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act makes it a crime for a debt collector to tell a debtor that they are about to be arrested for owing money. If a debt collector threatens you with jail time, you should talk with an attorney as soon as possible, and attempt to preserve any evidence of the threat that was made. A debt collector who violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may end up owing you money instead of collecting it from you because this law is very strict!

But Be Wary of Collections Lawsuits

Talking with an attorney if a debt collector threatens you with jail time is also critical because some sneaky debt collectors are using a legal trick to make it so they can get someone arrested for the debt they owe.

Some debt collectors are filing civil lawsuits over debts that are not being paid. The purpose of these suits is to get the courts to recognize the debts so that the creditor or collector can do a foreclosure, repossess property that was used as collateral, or start garnishing wages.

If you don’t respond to the civil lawsuit, the creditor or collector who filed it automatically wins. And they now have the power of the courts at their disposal. Some courts have been issuing arrest warrants for debtors who don’t comply with court orders issued in these civil lawsuits over debt.

If you are being sued over debt that you owe, you should contact an attorney right away. Don’t risk going to jail when there are so many other options available to you.


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Padgett and Robertson assist clients with Bankruptcy, Personal Bankruptcy, Consumer Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and The New Bankruptcy Law in Mobile, Alabama and throughout southern Alabama. Alabama State Bar Association Regulations require the following: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." 11 U.S.C. 528 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires the following: "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.”



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Alabama State Bar Association Regulations require the following: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." 11 U.S.C. 528 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires the following: "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.”