Debt collectors have recently started trying to send people to jail for unpaid debts in Minnesota. These are usually credit card debts, but can be anything from mortgages to medical debts also. Debtors' prisons were abolished in the US over 100 years ago, but the debt collectors have again found a way to make the courts do their work for them.
To do this, the debt collector goes to civil court to obtain a judgment, which normally entitles them only to collect against the assets of the debtor. The debtor is then ordered to tell the debt collector about his bank accounts and other assets. If the debtor doesn't give this information to the creditor, then the judge can find the debtor in contempt of court for ignoring the order. A judge can then issue an arrest warrant for being in contempt of court. This means that although you can't be jailed for having debt, you can be jailed for failing to give information to a creditor.
What is more, this process where the creditor gets the judgment can happen without your knowledge. Although creditors are generally supposed to serve you with a summons and complaint before they can get a judgment, this does not always happen.
After they get the warrant, the police can arrest you, or if they stop you in traffic and see the warrant, they might take you to jail. Once you go to jail, the judge will probably set bail at the amount of the debt. If you post bail, then the money will go to the creditor. So in effect, some debt collection companies have found a way to bring back debtors' prisons.
Two ways to fight back against this are by showing up in court when the debt collector gets a judgment, or by filing a bankruptcy. If you go to court, you will have to give them your bank numbers, and they will probably use that information to take the money in your bank account. But they won't be able to find you in contempt of court. If you file for bankruptcy relief then the judgment and many other types of debt will be wiped out, and the arrest warrant will stop.
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