Could you go to prison for unpaid debt?
Although debtors’ prisons have been illegal in the United States for more than 200 years, there has been a recent influx of people sentenced to jail time for unpaid debt according to a recent NPR report. While creditors and collection agencies claim that their practices are legal, many debt relief attorneys and advocates claim that debtors are being treated unfairly.
With the recession has come an increase in unpaid debt in Georgia and throughout the country. As a result, creditors are resorting to severe tactics to compel debtors to pay their bills. When they are unable to do so, as many are, they may face harsh consequences.
When a company has an unpaid debt, it will often sell that debt to a collection agency, often referred to as a creditor. The creditor, who has purchased millions of dollars in unpaid debts, will then file a lawsuit against the debtor. The debtor is supposed get a notice to appear in court, but more often than not those summonses are not received.
Then, when the debtor does not appear in court, the judge will issue a warrant for their arrest. So although they may technically be serving time for their failure to appear in court, they are actually put in jail for their failure to pay their debt, and many believe that this is illegal and unconstitutional.
When debtors do appear in court, they are usually not aware of their rights and unable to defend themselves. Further, the judge presiding over the case may not even be aware of the debtor’s rights, causing him or her to suffer unnecessary consequences. Therefore, it is important to have a knowledgeable debt relief attorney on your side if you find yourself in this situation.
Source: NPR, “Unpaid Bills Land Some Debtors Behind Bars,” Susie An, Dec. 12, 2011
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