When facing crushing debt, it’s easy to start imagining the worst-case scenario. Debt collectors are likely calling you, and perhaps they’re making threats to garnish your wages, or worse – have you arrested. Is the possibility of these threats real? Can you really go to jail for failing to pay your debt?
Debt collection prisons have been illegal in the United States since the 1800s. That means, generally speaking, you cannot go to jail for failing to pay a debt. However, creditors and debt collection agencies may find ways around this. In some scenarios, they may twist the facts of the case to show that your actions were illegal. If they are successful, you could possibly go to jail, not for the debt itself, but for the illegal act.
It’s not above debt collectors to try deceptive tactics such as this. It’s another reason why, if you’re suffering from a large amount of debt, you must speak to a Florida debt defense lawyer.
Debt Collectors Cannot Threaten Arrest
Not only can you not go to jail for owing a debt, but collection agencies and creditors cannot even threaten arrest or jail, either. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits them from making such threats. It also prohibits debt collectors from making misleading statements. This means that they can inform you of actions they are going to take, such as filing a lawsuit, but they must be willing or intending to follow through on those actions. If they don’t have grounds for a lawsuit, they cannot threaten to file one.
Debt Collectors Can Seek Judgments Against You
While a debt collector cannot threaten to have you arrested, they can file a lawsuit against you to recover the debt. This is typically their most effective recourse. Thousands of civil lawsuits are filed by debt collectors every year in Florida. Some have very little documentation proving the debt, how much is owed, and who owes it.
Still, they file the lawsuit in the hopes that you will ignore it. If you receive a court summons and don’t respond to it or fail to attend the hearing, the court will issue a default judgment against you. Most often, this will result in wage garnishment or the courts ordering you to repay the debt in another form.
When you do attend the hearing, you can sometimes argue that the facts of the case to get a judgment issued in your favor. Perhaps you don’t owe the debt, or the amount of the debt is incorrect. These are all potential defenses when arguing debt in court. Unfortunately, too many debtors either don’t attend the hearing, or they attend without legal representation. Both of these scenarios are likely to end with a judgment against you.
In a handful of states, if you have a judgment against you and still fail to repay the debt, you can be arrested. The arrest is for ignoring the court order, not the actual debt. This is also not the case in Florida. You cannot be arrested for failing to comply with the judgment. However, your assets can be seized and it will be reported to the credit bureau. When this happens, it will remain on your credit history for seven years.
When You Might Be Arrested
Although you can’t be arrested for failing to pay a debt or comply with a court order, some lenders pursue other legal avenues. These are not always honest or accurate.
For example, if you take out a payday loan, you will need to provide them with a post-dated check. This allows them to recover the money from you automatically. If that check bounces, the payday loan company may claim that you defrauded them. When this is the case, they may threaten or even pursue arrest. Typically, before they do, they will need to show they’ve made an effort to collect another payment from you.
Often, these companies and others that use the legal loophole of fraud know you did not intend to defraud them. However, they still make the threat of arrest in order to persuade you to repay the debt. Again, if they do not actually intend to pursue an arrest, they cannot threaten it. Most know an arrest will do little to recover the debt and have no desire to pursue criminal charges, particularly when the amount of debt is very small.
What to Do When a Debt Collector Makes Threats
Regardless of whether a debt collector is making threats of wage garnishment or arrest, it’s important to take action. Start first by understanding the facts of the case. Verify the debt, including the amount and if the debt is actually yours.
Don’t make any hasty decisions. This is what the debt collector is hoping for. They want you to imagine that worst-case scenario and be willing to do anything to avoid it. Take the time to understand your options, how to handle a debt that’s in collections, and what the best solution is for it.
If a debt collector is being overly aggressive or making illegal threats, such as the threat of arrest, report them to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They will investigate the debt collector and take action to force them to stop the illegal actions.
When debt collectors are acting illegally or aggressively, you should also speak to a debt defense lawyer. An attorney will also hold the debt collector accountable for dishonest debt collection practices.
Contact Our Florida Debt Defense Lawyers Today
If you’re being threatened or harassed by a debt collector, it’s important you speak to a Fort Lauderdale debt defense attorney today. At Loan Lawyers, we are passionate about standing up for the rights of those suffering from debt and will ensure debt collectors act legally and honestly at all times. When they don’t, we will take action against them to stop the harassment. If you’re dealing with overly aggressive debt collectors, call us today at (954) 523-HELP (4357) or contact us online for your free consultation. There are steps you can take to stop debt collection harassment, and we are happy to guide you through them.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation and find out more about our money back guarantee on credit card debt buyer lawsuits, and how we may be able to help you.