Can you be taken to jail for a judgment?

Submitted by carriemsnyder on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 21:22

A judgment is a legal decision issued by a judge. If you have defaulted on your debt payments, the creditor or collection agency can sue you for the unpaid debt. When a court summons is served, you are required to answer the complaint within the time mentioned on the summons. If you fail to answer the complaint by the specified date or appear in court after you have been notified, the court automatically renders the decision in the creditor's favor. This is known as a default judgment.

Can you be arrested after judgment?

Collection of a debt is considered a civil matter. Therefore, a warrant for your arrest cannot be issued.

If a creditor wins a lawsuit against an account holder, a judgment is recorded that legally acknowledges that the account holder owes the debt and is obligated to repay. As a result, the creditor can garnish your wages and bank accounts and put a lien on your property. The creditor won't be able to repossess or foreclose on your home or car. Unless you pay off the debt, the lien cannot be removed and unless the lien is removed, you will have difficulties selling your home. However, you cannot be taken to jail for not paying your debt.

Effect of a judgment on your credit report and scores

Once a judgment has been issued against you, it will be entered on your credit report and will remain for 7-10 years. It has a negative effect on your credit report and score. Moreover, a judgment can remain effective up to 20 years. This varies according to the state and the judgment can even be renewed before its expiration. Therefore, judgments are a matter of public record and can be viewed by potential employers and creditors or lenders.

If you fail to comply with the court order, it can result in further court action. Generally judgments specify a payment plan for you to repay the creditor the outstanding debt amount along with the fees incurred during the legal process. Depending on an individual's circumstances, repayment measures could include wage garnishment, bank account freezes, forfeiture of income tax refunds, or seizure of property (lien).

However, if you are not properly served with a notice of the lawsuit against you, you can file a Motion to Vacate the judgment or a Motion for Arrest of judgment. The Motion to Vacate the judgment nullifies the judgment and you can dispute the negative item off your credit report. Motion for Arrest of judgment too is more or less the same as Motion to Vacate judgment. This motion is a request to the court to overrule the judgment on the grounds that it has been granted in error.

Best way to avoid judgments

The best way to avoid a judgment is to pay all of your bills on time. If that is not possible, contact your creditors or the debt collectors and explain the situation. They may be willing to work out an alternative payment plan to help you pay down your debt. That is definitely better than allowing your creditor to take you to court.Moreover, judgment hurts your credit score. Thus, it is better to avoid a judgment.

Guest (not verified)

No, the credit card company cannot bring judgment to take away your car. Only if you had defaulted on your auto loan, the auto loan company could have repossessed your car. If the credit card company brings judgment against you, they can either garnish your wage or your bank account.
I think that you should not give any personal information like your social security number to anyone. If you have received a summon from the court, you should visit the clerk's office in the court that has issued the summon and file a response to the summon within 30 days or as mentioned on the summon.

Thu, 03/12/2009 - 06:55 Permalink

Yes, you should first file an answer to the summon, otherwise the creditor or the collection agency can bring a default judgment against you. After filing the response to the summon, you should send a debt validation letter to check whether they own your debt or not. If they cannot validate the debt, they can never bring judgment against you. Now since you have made the last payment towards the debt in 2003, you should check whether the Statute of limitation on the debt has expired or not. If it has expired, then you are not required to make any payment towards the debt.
You should never give personal information such as your SSN and you employment details to anybody.

Thu, 03/12/2009 - 07:09 Permalink
REGINO MEDINA (not verified)

I got a letter that says that I have 30 days to answer to this attorney or law firm to pay the debt otherwise they will proceed to take appropiate steps to secure payment and they have also menazed me to take me to jail or to have me pick up from home or work once they get court order because I'd have commited a crime when i went to borrow the money and not paid back can they do such a thing in texas I live in houston.

Sat, 10/03/2009 - 23:51 Permalink
D.G. (not verified)

I received a letter staing that a credit card company was in shearch of something they could put a judgement on me four. I didn't receive anything else after that, but on my credit report is a judgement. Can they keep my tax return?

Thu, 01/28/2010 - 19:19 Permalink

I have a judgement against me, I was told that it just sits there until they find something to take to pay it off. How ever I would be interested to know if they could attach my income tax refund, also. The judgement is actually for a loan my daughter got, that I co-signed for. She already filed her taxes and got her refund, without a problem. I'm hoping this is a good sign. Anyone who knows anything about this please, please answer me quickly.

Fri, 01/29/2010 - 02:47 Permalink

If it is a student loan they can, but they took my state taxes without getting a judgment. this judgment can stay on your report for 20 years plus, I would come up with something other than waiting around.

Fri, 01/29/2010 - 10:39 Permalink

So if it is not a government loan they cannot garnish your income tax refund? You said it stays on your credit score for 20 years. What state are you from, is this in all states? I have never had a judgement entered against me before, like I said this is for a loan I co-signed for a car for my daughter. The car was a lemmon, the motor went in it, the lender sold it for $500, much less than my daughter still owed on it, and they never even deducted this ammount from what they said she still owes.

Sat, 02/06/2010 - 15:20 Permalink
scrwedinjersey (not verified)

We were going to file bankruptcy, but decided against it.
Only two creditors are being really difficult. One said that if we cannot settle, it will go into the next stage. I am assuming that will be a judgement. If this goes foward, what can they do. Garnish wages, put a lien on our home? We live in NJ. Does anyone have any advice on how to proceed?

Tue, 02/16/2010 - 15:36 Permalink

Hi scrwedinjersey,

If you cannot settle the debt with your creditor, they will file for a judgment against you. A a result of that judgment, your accounts and wages will get garnished. So it's better to settle with the debtor, than allowing them to take you to court. Moreover, a judgment will stay on your credit report for 7 years.

With a settlement, the due amount gets lowered atleast by 40-60 %. It becomes much easier to pay. Moreover all creditors does not always agree to a settlement. As you are being asked for a settlement, you can go for it. However, remember to get a written copy of the settlement offer.

Wed, 02/17/2010 - 10:49 Permalink
thom (not verified)

There is a judgement on me from a company I know nothing about. they levied my back acct and I am waiting to find out who they are.
Now I am worried my car will disappear in the middle of the night.
Can they take it????

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 04:41 Permalink

Hi Thom,

The company can't take your car. However, you can try the debt validation with the company. With the debt validation, you will be able to know if you really owe the debt or not, and if you owe, who the original creditor was, and if this company really has the authority to collect from you. In the meantime, you can check for the company details with the Better Business Bureau.

You can also contact a local consumer protection lawyer. It is always better to take legal help in such situation.

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 05:22 Permalink

it is not likely that they would take the car unless it was used in collateral for the loan.

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:40 Permalink
Sharon (not verified)

Hi Thom,

You don't need to go for a debt validation, as you can have all the details from the court papers. As a judgment has been filed, the original debt is now submitted with the court. If you find that the debt has been incurred by you, you can ask for a debt settlement. If you settle and pay off the debt, the judgment will get reported as settled.

Mon, 02/22/2010 - 11:29 Permalink
Homer (not verified)

A company got a judgment against me in Oregon. I hired an attorney there but even though there was no written contract for cost of goods sold. I was "hometowned" and lost the trial and judgment. Can the creditor take my equipment I make my living with? Pick-ups, trailers etc.

Tue, 03/16/2010 - 08:01 Permalink

Hi Homer,

If your equipments has been kept as a collateral against the loan, then they may seize your equipments.



Wed, 03/17/2010 - 11:05 Permalink
T ortega (not verified)

I got a letter in the mail stated that there was a judgment against me in 2003 and that I must make arrangements to pay it. I spent 4 yrs in jail. at that time and I dont remember ever getting anything in the mail before this time. what does this mean

Tue, 04/13/2010 - 23:08 Permalink

Hi Tortega,

Visit the court where the judgment has been filed, and request the court clerk to show you the papers on this case. From there you will come to know what this judgment is about. However, can you tell if you owed any money to anybody?



Fri, 04/16/2010 - 12:12 Permalink
Misty (not verified)

I have judgement against me because I couldn't pay my credit card.
When I go to court ,can they take the one and own care I owe?

Mon, 06/07/2010 - 21:09 Permalink

Hi Misty,

Cars generally cannot be taken by credit card companies. They can sue you for not making payments on the card. If they win the judgment they can either garnish your wages, your bank account, r put a lien against your property, or car, etc. They can also do the both together.

When a lien is put against any of your assets, you will not be able to sell them. You will have to pay off the debt in order to remove the lien from your property.



Tue, 06/08/2010 - 09:53 Permalink
Amanda (not verified)

We live in a border town in Texas, we purchased a car and had full coverage plus 25 miles into Mx as we travel along the border frequently. While visitnig relatives in Mx the car was stolen and the insurance refused to pay stating that it only covered accidents. They never notified the bank on any of the situation and now they want to place a judgment against us. What will happen? Can they garnish our wages or income tax returns?

Thu, 06/10/2010 - 19:00 Permalink
tired of all t… (not verified)

Can a auto or home that is not paid for be taken on a judgement for credit cards

Wed, 07/14/2010 - 14:41 Permalink

Hi tired,

No your home or auto cannot be directly taken by the creditor for non payment of dues. The creditor will have to sue you, and if he wins the judgment, he can put a lien on your home or automobile.



Fri, 07/16/2010 - 11:02 Permalink
joey (not verified)

can i go to jail if i dont show up and i cant settle

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 23:30 Permalink

Hi joey,

No, you can't be taken to jail for credit card debt. However, you have said

if i don't show up

so did you receive any summons? If you have, and if the summons requires you to be present in the court on the stipulated date, you are required to do that. Else, you may have to stay in jail for a night or two as you can be held in contempt of court.



Tue, 08/03/2010 - 09:35 Permalink
mssfancy4 (not verified)

Will bankruptcy take away any judgements I have against me?

Wed, 09/01/2010 - 15:53 Permalink
mssfancy4 (not verified)

Will bankruptcy take away any judgements I have against me?

Wed, 09/01/2010 - 15:54 Permalink

Hi mssfancy,

Judgments can be taken away and removed only if the debt on which the judgment has been issued was included in the bankruptcy. Also the debt needs to be discharged through bankruptcy.

In chapter 7 bankruptcy a judgment is normally discharged. however, in case of chapter 13 bankruptcy you are required to set up a repayment plan through which you will have to pay back some part of your debts. Now, if you can't pay off the debt (a part) with the judgment, it may not be taken away.



Thu, 09/02/2010 - 09:46 Permalink
wca (not verified)

I was supbonea to court for unpaid bills can they send me to jail over this if I have already been once for it

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 12:42 Permalink
eva (not verified)

i had a collection company fro bad checks , ihad wrtieena couple bad checks two a half to three years ago , they now want to charge me five times what they were worth and have a judgement against me i got a call stateing that they were going to go before a judge again to be able to come to my house and auction off all of my personal belongings property, when i spoke to them today i was told i needed to take them almost three thousand dollars or i could go to jail for minimum of one year , and it's embarrasing to be arrested at work , can they do this crap or not i am worried and i really don't have anything i can give them at this point

Tue, 11/30/2010 - 02:32 Permalink
douglas (not verified)

i have someone taking me to court saying i didnt pay her back. i am a interested party with a home belonging to my friend, but everything is in her name, im just listed as a interested party. can a lein be put on the house in this personal civil judgement

Sun, 01/23/2011 - 00:46 Permalink
sharie (not verified)

can the state of wisconsin take my tax return with out there being a judgement against me?

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 18:04 Permalink
lisa (not verified)

recently I found out there is a judgement against our home for a credit card debt my husband incurred. The mortgage is in my name but both names are on the deed. We keep all of our money separate and none of his debt has my name attached to it. Can a credit card company get a judgement against our home without notifying us and can this affect my credit if my name is not part of his debt? We live in NC.

thank you

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 13:53 Permalink
honey (not verified)

i went pay my court online today and it showed up that i have a outstanding judgement warrant what does this mean am i going jail when i see my probation officer on the 1st????

Sun, 05/15/2011 - 04:01 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My question is I receive ssi, my x landlord is coming after me for several months rent. I tried to get help from the state at the time but my landlord took forever to give me the paper work they wanted and than they refused to help me. My question is can they take my car. His attorney sent me paper work to fill out even though he already has a judgement against me and it is already on my credit report.

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 03:16 Permalink
Deodilegirl (not verified)

I sent a subpoena with question. I owe my old landlord several months of back rent, during that time I did try to get help from the state but was denied cause it took so long to get all the paper work. My question is I now receive SSI and am wondering can they take it or my bank account or my vehicle. My mother was also going to purchase a mobile home for me so I wouldn't have to end up on the street. Can they go after that. Should I seek a lawyers help. The judgement is already on my credit report how many times can they do this is it a yearly thing.

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 03:26 Permalink
john brewew (not verified)

My question is i had loan for about $ 300 dallors 7 years ago an i had to go to cort i was never able to pay for it can they do any thing to me from this long an what can i do if they do. Cuz im a singel pairnt of 3 childern livein with me now an all my money gos on bills and kids

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 03:44 Permalink
john brewew (not verified)

My question is i had loan for about $ 300 dallors 7 years ago an i had to go to cort i was never able to pay for it can they do any thing to me from this long an what can i do if they do. Cuz im a singel pairnt of 3 childern livein with me now an all my money gos on bills and kids

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 20:10 Permalink
Jill chris (not verified)

I received an order/judgement to pay $35 a week from an old credit card. That doesn't sound like much however I am disabled and living entirely on my SS!. By the end of most months food, laundry soap, shampoo, etc are gone. I have already sold my card. Can a judgement take my SSI? And I have asked for statements which they have never supplied. I told them I couldn't pay more than $5 - 10 a month. I don't even know if the card was mine as they redacted my account number. I will appreciate any help you can give me.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 21:14 Permalink
rachida (not verified)

i ignored all the letter from my creditors and stop opening my mails that i know it's from them! but recently i received a letter that says default judgement! what should me my next stop!

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 01:37 Permalink
Rebecca (not verified)

I have a company calling me and harrassing me telling me that they have a 20 year judgement against me from a 2001 repo. I have never seen anything about a judgement and this so called judgement is not on any of the credit reports that I have pulled. I have requested that they send me a copy of the judgement and they havent yet. My question is does a judgement show up on your credit report and how do i find out if there is one against me? Thank you in advance for your help.

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 19:06 Permalink
Alberto (not verified)

Can a payday loan companie put me in jail for fraud for not paying my loan?

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 11:24 Permalink
karen in knoxv… (not verified)

can my ssd check be garnished for fines/court costs stemming from a few misdemeanor charges at the local county courts. I served jail time and was told my fines and costs were executed I served approx. 5 months in the county jail and they (I believe the courts have found that I have been awarded my disability). They are bringing up costs which I was told by my lawyer could only be collected by means of a civil judgement against me. I felt doing my "time" should have well satisfied any fines/costs. I have been informed that at 5 months equals approx. 150 days and the per diem jail costs about $30. something dollars a day and they now want payment of these bills. Can the garnish my ssd which is all I live on $903.00 per month?

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 13:58 Permalink
Help Appreciated (not verified)

Can my SSI benefits be garnished/attached by a California Victim Restitution judgment ?

Thank you

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 07:18 Permalink
Karen abie3… (not verified)

Can I put a lien on a person that owes me money,she has a lien already on her car,if not what can i do?

Thank you karen

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 15:06 Permalink