Can You Go to Jail For Debt in Pennsylvania?

Debt is not pleasant. If you are in debt, you likely want to get rid of it as soon as possible. The nasty feeling of being in debt may make people think that being in debt is illegal. Some may worry that they are going to go to jail if they do not pay off their debts. However, in reality, being in debt is not illegal in the slightest.

For most kinds of debt, you cannot go to jail for leaving them unpaid. The only consequences will be in the form of potential lawsuits and other negative life consequences. However, there are certain kinds of debt that, if left unpaid, can land you in jail. This includes things like child support and theft.

For a free, confidential case review, call our Pennsylvania debt attorneys from Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (215) 701-6519.

Is Being in Debt Illegal in Pennsylvania?

It is not illegal to be in debt. That being said, it is not a fun experience. You may feel as if a debt collector could be right around the corner, outside your home, or calling the next time the phone rings. It may not feel as if you have full control of what is going on. For that reason, many people mistakenly believe that being in debt, usually for long periods of time, is against the law. The logic is that debt feels really bad, so it must be illegal. This, however, is not true. In the vast majority of cases, while there may be civil or life consequences for debt, there are not criminal ones.

Can Debt Send You to Jail in Pennsylvania?

Most debts cannot land you in jail. However, failure to pay certain kinds of debt may result in your arrest and time in jail. Our lawyers have denoted these specific kinds of debt in this section, and we will go into a brief explanation of each one.

Child Support

Child support payments are court-ordered payments for a parent to support the cost of raising a child. These payments usually go on until the child has reached 18 years old. Unlike with other debts, like credit card debt, you can be sent to jail for failure to pay child support.

Unpaid Taxes

Unpaid taxes can create debt to the government. The Internal Revenue Service takes tax evasion and filing fraudulent taxes very seriously. This is another form of debt that can land you in jail.

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is when someone does something in direct defiance of a court of law. While not necessarily directed at debt specifically, contempt of court can land you in jail for failure to pay off a debt. For example, suppose you are sued for an unpaid debt by a creditor. Against the judgment and advice that our Philadelphia debt lawyers certainly would give, you do not show up to court. The court then orders you to either pay the debt or show up to court. You do neither. At that point, you are in contempt of court and can be arrested and put in jail. So, while contempt of court does not always deal with debt, if it does, it can land you in jail.

Can Debt Collectors Arrest You for Unpaid Debts in Pennsylvania?

Debt collectors do not have the world’s greatest reputation, and that poor reputation is not entirely unearned. Indeed, debt collection companies use many tactics to try and not-so-gently persuade people to pay their debts. Some of these tactics can include trying to intimidate debtors with things the debt collector knows are false.

As an example, debt collectors may threaten to sue someone after the statutory period to do so has run out. Additionally, they may try to tell you that debt will land you in jail if unpaid. Note that it is not legal for debt collectors to tell you that you will go to jail for unpaid debts. They are banking on the fact that most people will get scared and immediately try and pay off the debt. However, it is better to contact an attorney and work towards becoming debt-free in the way that is best for your situation.

Steps to Take if You Cannot Pay Your Debts in Pennsylvania

Just because you cannot go to jail for not paying your debts does not mean you should neglect trying to resolve them. You should try and take action towards paying off your debts. We’ll go through some of your options below, and our lawyers can help you with whichever one you choose.

Restructure Payments

One way to try to resolve debts amicably is to restructure your agreement with your creditor. For example, if you are having trouble meeting payment deadlines, our lawyers can work with your creditor to potentially lengthen the term of the agreement in exchange for payments in a lower amount. Restructuring is frequently used in real estate, especially when a deed is at risk for foreclosure because of missed payments.

File for Bankruptcy

Another way to deal with debt is to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not nearly as desperate a move as one may initially believe. What filing for bankruptcy does is put a hold on all debt collection efforts against you, and the court takes over and works out a way to resolve your debt. This is most commonly done by selling off assets until either the debt is paid or there are no more eligible assets. At that point, you are considered clear of debt, regardless of how much of it was paid off by liquidated assets.

Talk to Our Pennsylvania Debt Lawyers Right Away

Call Young, Marr, Mallis, & Associates at (215) 701-6519 and speak to our Bucks County debt lawyers today.

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