Can You Go to Jail for Credit Card Debt?

Can You Go to Jail for Credit Card Debt?

Debt collectors cannot arrest you for credit card or other consumer debt, but they can take you to court and sue you for payment. And, under certain circumstances, debt can lead you to jail for fraud, theft, or defying a court order.

Whatever the source of your consumer debt, if you find yourself overwhelmed with debt, your best bet is getting legal advice. The skilled and seasoned Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that money problems can happen to even the most well-intentioned people.  We offer a free consultation to evaluate your financial situation and create a plan to help you get out of debt and protect yourself from aggressive collector tactics.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so contact us online or call our offices today for your free consultation.

How Debt Can Lead to Jail

According to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors collecting debts for others are prohibited from engaging in abusive or harassing conduct, and that includes threats of sending you to jail. However, if you do not pay your debts, your creditors can sue you in court.

In Ohio, you have 28 days to answer or respond to a complaint by creditors. If you don’t file an answer, if you overlook a legal summons and complaint, or if you don’t show up in court when you are supposed to, the creditor can win the case by default and receive a judgment against you.

The court can then take steps to make you pay. Courts can order the garnishment of your wages or your bank account and allow creditors to seize some of your personal property and put a lien on your real estate.  Ohio law provides an exemption for a certain value of your residence, for medical debts, and limits for personal property and for a vehicle, but anything over the exemptions can be used to satisfy creditors.

If creditors still can’t get money from you, the courts can order you to appear in court where, under oath, you must answer questions about your finances and why you haven’t paid that creditor. If you fail to attend, the court can find you in civil contempt.

If you do not pay or follow the court’s orders, you may be found in contempt of court and have a warrant for failure to obey a court order.

What You Can Do to Avoid Aggressive Collection Efforts

If you’re being hounded by an aggressive debt collector:

  • Always read and respond to all papers you get from the court or the attorney of a collector.  Make sure the facts, including the amount and whether the debt is really yours, are correct. Debt collectors who are not your original creditor must prove they bought your debt and own it at the time the legal action is filed or their claim is not valid. Report harassing debt collectors to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Go to the hearings. Often, going to court and asking the collector to prove that it has sued the right person for the right amount is enough to get the case dismissed or settled for less. Other reasons your case may be dismissed include:
    • The debt may be too old to be collected, as Ohio debt collectors generally have six years to take action for credit card debt.
    • You may have been mistakenly identified by the debt collector, or someone else may have incurred the debt, forged your name and accumulated debt under your name.
    • You may have already paid the debt or discharged it in bankruptcy, and can present evidence to support this claim.
  • Know whether you are judgment-proof. Ohio law exempts some sources of income from seizure by creditors, including social security retirement or disability benefits, SSI, Ohio Works First and other public benefits, worker’s compensation and unemployment compensation.
  • Ask for a hearing. You have the right to a hearing if you disagree with an order of garnishment if the money in your account comes from an exempt source. If your source of income is exempt, the money stays exempt, even if directly deposited in your bank account. However, the bank will freeze whatever is over the exemption amount.
  • File for bankruptcy. If you have found yourself in a situation where the debt is more than you can handle, bankruptcy, a legal way to have many debts forgiven, can put you on the road to financial recovery.  If you’re a good candidate for bankruptcy, filing can keep creditors from harassing you and seizing your possessions, allow debts to be forgiven, and provide a way for you to keep your assets and begin to rebuild your life.

Contact Us For Advice and a Free Consultation

If you are struggling with debt, legal assistance can help. Take the first step toward debt relief and contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.  We will evaluate your entire financial situation by looking at your income, your debts and your goals, and find the best fit for you.  We will handle every phase of the process, including getting creditors to stop attempting to collect on unpaid bills.

Delaying can only worsen your situation, so call the Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer to set up your free consultation today.

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