Hi there. This is Jonathan Ginsberg and I
would like to answer questions today that I sometimes get from people that
is, 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 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 debtors prison. That’s a fallacious
argument. Don’t buy it. And if that happens, you should get on the phone,
call an attorney, call me, and we will decide if there is any grounds for
content to action against the creditor for making a serious threat. Maybe
you can recover damages. But no debtors prison, so don’t lose sleep over that.
Hope this has been helpful. Again Jonathan Ginsberg here. Fell free to
call my office at 770-393-4985. If you have any more questions about debt
or bankruptcy. Thanks very much.