In Minnesota, arrests associated with unpaid debt are common, according to the Star Tribune. The Star Tribune further mentioned that the number of arrests due to unpaid debt jumped 60 percent over a four-year period. Moreover, there were 845 arrests associated with unpaid debt in 2009 alone. Such reports often lead consumers to wonder whether it's possible to prevent an arrest due to unpaid debt.
Unpaid Debt and Debtors' Prison
Up until the mid-1800's, debtors who failed to pay their debts often spent months and even years in prison until a portion or all of the debt was paid off. Today, however, the federal government has outlawed imprisonment due to unpaid debt. Your creditors cannot have you arrested simply because you fail to respond to their phone calls or notices.
However, your creditors can resort to a lawsuit against you in an effort to collect the unpaid debt. If your creditor has already filed a lawsuit, it's not too late to attempt to negotiate a payoff amount. The creditor's attorney will likely withdraw the lawsuit if you reach an agreement. This will halt the legal process and reduce the possibilities of an arrest due to unpaid debt.
If you choose not to contact the creditor and don't appear in court on the specified date, you will automatically lose by default. Please note: Whether failing to appear in court constitutes "contempt of court" at this point varies by state. If the constable serves you with judgment papers, appear in court or find out what constitutes "contempt of court" in your state.
Court Judgments to Collect Unpaid Debt
If you do not appear in court or you show up in court and lose the case, the judge will enter a judgment against you. Such judgment is an acknowledgement that you owe the debt. Once you're notified of a judgment against you, it's a good idea to contact the attorney and arrange to take care of the unpaid debt.
If you fail to pay off the debt or don't arrange to pay it off, the attorney could go back to court and file a court order for a debtor examination under oath. This type of hearing allows the creditor to ask you questions about your finances, such as bank accounts and other asset information.
Should your creditor/the attorney file a court order for a debtor examination, you should receive a court summons with a court date. Never ignore a court summons. Failure to appear in court constitutes "contempt of a court order" and will generally result in a warrant for your arrest.
As you can see, unpaid debt does not directly cause you to go to prison, but ignoring a court order will.
Preventing an Arrest Due to Unpaid Debt
The following precautions will generally help you prevent an arrest due to unpaid debt:
1. Open and read all your mail, even if you don't recognize the sender's name or return address. Junk debt buyers often purchase delinquent accounts from creditors for pennies on the dollar. The collection agency or junk buyer will generally attempt to contact you multiple times. Request validation of the debt if you receive a bill from a debt collector or junk buyer. Unless the collector validates the debt, he should cease all contact.
If you determine that the debt is yours, it's a good idea to arrange to care for the debt. In such case, you have multiple options.
- Pay off the debt in full.
- Set up an installment plan to pay off the unpaid debt.
- Negotiate a reduced settlement.
2. Contact the attorney if you receive a notice of a judgment against you. Make specific arrangements to pay off the debt, and keep your share of the agreement. If you do, you will likely prevent an arrest due to unpaid debt.
3. Should you receive a court summons, do not ignore it. Answer the court summons and attend court on the scheduled date.
4. Keep good records of all communication with debt collectors. Write down the date, name of person you spoke with and what was discussed. Familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. There's a certain procedure that debt collectors must follow in the collection process or prior to suing you.
In summary, it's generally possible to prevent an arrest associated with unpaid debts. Read all your mail. Contact the creditor to negotiate a settlement if you receive notice of a lawsuit against you. Pay off any judgments filed against you or set up a payment plan. If you are served with a court summons, don't ignore it. File an answer and attend court on the scheduled date. Actions such as these will generally stop the legal process and prevent an arrest due to unpaid debt.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Consult your attorney regarding your particular circumstances.
Copyright Â© 2011 Ana Jackson. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part constitutes plagiarism, is illegal and strictly prohibited.
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