A recent article in a Minnesota newspaper has struck fear in the hearts hundreds of thousands of citizens with a common problem in this economy - being in debt and unable to pay. The article gave an account of a woman who was jailed after apparently failing to pay a debt for which judgment was being sought by the creditor. From one perspective, that account may appear to be true. The woman had been ordered to appear in court to answer as to why she had not paid. She failed to appear for the hearing and the judge issued a warrant for her arrest. She was picked up on a routine traffic stop, and when the officer performed a check of her identity the warrant was noted. She was jailed, booked, and fingerprinted. In a similar case, a man
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The relentless debt collectors are now using statutes and laws dealing with failure to appear, failure to answer subpoenas, failure to answer post-judgment discovery, and contempt as a means of coercing delinquent consumers into paying. While most consumers are aware of post-judgment actions such as wage garnishment and personal property levy, very few understand that there are other avenues available to a creditor to force payment. And judges, even with their broad powers of discretion, are being pressured to enforce the law.
One could argue these tactics are harsh, ruthless and burdensome to the taxpayer. However, by the time a creditor is allowed to take or has resorted to these actions a debtor has had myriad letters, phone calls, offers of repayment plans and offers of settlement. They've either chosen to ignore the communications in the hopes the collector will just give up or they truly are in no financial position to pay and feel discussion of the debt with the creditor to be a useless exercise. Debt collectors are going to dig for those assets to satisfy debts. They will engage the sheriff to seize personal and real property. They will find bank accounts to garnish and wages to attach. And they will legally be able to force debtors and consumers to play ball and appear in court, answer questions about assets, and ultimately get the debt paid.