Can I be put in prison if I don’t pay credit card debt?
And even though you would think that this type of questions shouldn’t come up. It still does because I think bill collectors sometimes will occasionally imply or even outright state that you can be thrown in jail if you don’t pay your credit card debt. Let me assure you that there is no such thing as the debtors’ prison in the United States at this time. I don’t expect it to change. So in other words, there is no way you can be put in jail if you don’t pay your credit card debt. Anybody that says you can is misleading you and is probably, almost certainly violating Federal Law by telling you that.
So if you’re on the phone and a credit bill collector tells you that this could lead to incarceration, their absolutely not telling you the truth. Now what can happen is, a lawsuit can be filed against you. If a judgment is rendered, in other words, if you don’t answer the lawsuit in Georgia, you have 30 days to answer the lawsuit from date of service. Service means when the Sheriff’s deputy hands you the paper and says you have now been served, you have 30 days to answer that lawsuit plus you actually have another 15 days to reopen the default. In other words, if you were in default, if you did not answer in 30 days you can pay court costs. You have another 15 days to open it. And in that situation the worst that would happen would be the court enter a judgment against you and a judgment basically means that the creditor would have the right to go after your property.
Now the one time when jail actually does come to the conversation would be, if after a judgment, or even before a judgment for that matter, the creditor filed what is called discovery. Meaning, request for production of documents, or interrogatories, things like that. Or scheduled you for a deposition and you don’t show up, you don’t cooperate. If you simply don’t cooperate, this is typically more involved than litigation. But if you simply do not cooperate, you’re clearly doing it for purposes of delay, a creditor can ask the judge to have you incarcerated for contempt of court. Again very, very rare. It happens most often, when it does happen, in a post judgment situation where a person has a judgment against them, and that person will not cooperate with the lender, with the creditor, and revealing where assets may be. And in that situation if you don’t cooperate, you don’t answer the questions about where your assets are, in theory a judge could hold you in contempt of court and put you in jail. Again very, very rare. But you simply cannot be put in jail for not paying a debt to a creditor. The IRS is different. Child support is different. But if it’s simply to a credit card company or other civil creditor you cannot be thrown into jail. So, no debtor’s prison. That’s a fallacious argument. Don’t buy it.