How Debt Collectors Are Jailing Debtors

The practice of jailing debtors was outlawed in 1833. Yet and still consumers in 2018 continue to share a pressing inquiry: “Can I go to jail for defaulting on debt payments?” As unfavorable as it may be to default on a loan or credit payment, it cannot directly result in you being handcuffed, booked, and jailed. The keyword here is “directly.”

People regularly wind up in jail as a result of delinquent debt, but not in the way you may have in mind. A recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study revealed how debt collectors have long manipulated the court system into jailing debtors who fail to pay their bills.

The Debt-to-Jail Pipeline

When you miss a payment, you’ll likely get a friendly reminder from the debt collector managing your account. Once your payment is 180 days past-due, the creditor or lender can charge-off your debt and pursue one of the following options:

  • Sue you for violating the terms of the agreement
  • Outsource debt collection to a third-party debt collector
  • Sell your account to a debt buyer who can either resell your account, pursue internal collection, or file a lawsuit

Debt collectors who file lawsuits against debtors are likely to receive a favorable decision from the judge being that most debtors don’t contest charges. With a judgment in hand, the debt collector will push for the judge to have the debtor appear in court for a judgment debtor examination where the individual in question must answer questions under oath about his or her finances and ability to pay the debt.

When the debtor fails to show, the judge (with the debt collector’s encouragement) issues a bench warrant for the arrest of the debtor. Once arrested, the debtor will remain in police custody until their court hearing unless they can afford to post bail, and being that the origin of the legal issue is a result of one’s inability to make payments, most debtors remain in jail.

How Collectors Target the Financially Disadvantaged

While courts may perceive an individual skipping a court date as blatant disregard of the court system, the ACLU’s investigation found that people often missed court dates as a result of:

  • Lack of transportation
  • Medical issues
  • Childcare responsibilities
  • Work
  • Physical disabilities
  • Not receiving a court date notification

The study cited numerous situations where individuals were arrested for unpaid debts. In one instance a man committed suicide in jail after being arrested for an unpaid ambulance bill while another involved the passing of a caretaker’s mother two days after the caretaker was arrested for a 6-year-old debt claimed to be owed to a landlord.

The ultimate result of debt collectors manipulating the courts is the jailing of individuals who can’t afford to pay, weren’t notified, and possibly weren’t even legally obligated to pay.

Getting Justice Against Debt Collectors

Although the debt collection process may lead to an arrest, it is prohibited under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for debt collectors to threaten you with jail time. Debt collectors violate the law in countless ways every day. If you have received a letter from a debt collector or a call, contact us and we can determine whether you have a case usually within minutes.

The Florida FDCPA and TCPA lawyers at The Law Offices of Jibrael S. Hindi can help you recover up to $1000 for harassment by debt collectors and between $500-$1500 per TCPA violation. Contact us today at 1-844-JIBRAEL for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing for us to pursue an FDCPA case. We get paid by the debt collectors.