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Can A Fort Lauderdale Creditor Put Me In Jail If I Don't Pay My Credit Card?

On behalf of Bankruptcy Law Firm of Clare Casas on Thursday, July 14, 2011.

Creditors have often driven people into our office by threatening to arrest them for not paying. I'm always shocked when I hear this because it's such a clear violation of credit collection laws and creditors know this. However, we also have a huge Latin population in South Florida and in their native countries, I am told that they can be jailed for not paying debts. No doubt that this tactic has worked on many people who have fled their country because of such allowable abuse. This is not the case in Florida or the United States.

So let's clearly state it here: You cannot be arrested and put in jail for a civil debt owed to a credit card company or a bank.

Normally, the only time you can be arrested is when you break a criminal law or if you do not obey an order of the court in a family matter (these are called contempt orders). If you fail to follow the order of a court, you are being jailed for contempt most of the time - not for owing money. You must obey court orders if they tell you to pay money to someone. If you can't pay, then you must talk to the court and work something out. You just can't ignore court orders.

With that said, owing money to a person or or a credit card company is not a crime and it's not something that you can be put in jail for. The United States does not have "debtors' prisons." A creditor can take your money through garnishment or other involuntary measures only after they have gone through the legal process of filing a lawsuit and obtaining a final judgment against you.

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