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When Your Unpaid New York Judgments Can End In A Jail Cell

new york judgments prisonIt was just a credit card debt gone bad.  Now you’re being led out of the house in cuffs.  What happened?

When you’re past due on a debt, you know there are going to be collection efforts.  Phone calls and letters give way to lawsuits and judgments.  It’s not pleasant, but we know it’s possible.

What happens after the judgment is issued, at least in the case of a lawsuit in New York, can upend your entire world.

Enforcement Of Judgments In New York Cases

When a judgment is filed against you in New York, the creditor can take action to collect from you.  That includes wage garnishment, bank account levies, even – in a worst-case scenario – foreclosing on your real estate or repossessing your automobiles to pay the balance due.

There’s one more thing the creditor can do to collect unpaid judgments.

You could be sent to jail.

Jail Time For Unpaid Debts?

Under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 5250, creditors can ask the court to throw you into jail for unpaid judgments.

But before you panic and fear being sent off to Riker’s Island, the creditor has to prove certain things in order to get the judge to put you in jail.

The creditor must show that you are about to leave the state of New York (or you’re keeping yourself hidden somewhere in New York) and that there is reason to believe that you have in your possession or custody property that can be used to pay the debt. Merely saying that you owe money and don’t want to pay it isn’t enough – the law is designed to protect the creditor from someone who’s about to disappear with property.

Once there is a warrant for your arrest, you’re brought in front of the judge. The judge may order you to post a bond securing your attendance at a court examination.

The Chances Of Jail Time

I’ve been a bankruptcy and consumer protection lawyer in New York since 1995, and I have never heard of someone being carted away for an unpaid credit card debt. That’s not to say that it won’t happen to you, but I’d be shocked if Citibank and Chase started hauling people off to prison as a way to enforce a judgment.

Still, it’s a possibility. Which is precisely why you want to face your debts and deal with them rather than looking over your shoulder.

Review Your Options For Resolving The Judgment

There are lots of ways to resolve a judgment. You can look into settling the debt, paying it out over time, or filing for bankruptcy to discharge your obligations.

Whatever you do, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later. The faster you take action, the quicker you can start to rebuild your finances.

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By |November 30th, 2012|

About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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