Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in New Jersey

I am on Social Security. If I am being pressured by a collection agency, can they have me arrested for not paying, even if they place a judgment on me?

Asked on 5/15/11, 10:25 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jeffrey Walters Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Walters, LLC

No one can be arrested for not paying a debt, even if the creditor has obtained a judgment. Also, a creditor does not "place" a judgment on you. Rather, a creditor must file a lawsuit, serve you with the Summons and Complaint, and can obtain a judgment if you don't respond to the lawsuit or if you lose the lawsuit. After obtaining a judgment, a creditor may take steps to collect the judgment using methods available to them under the law, such as a levy on a bank account. A creditor may also serve you with a document called an Information Subpoena in order to force you to answer questions about your assets and income. A creditor can obtain an order for your arrest if you do not provide written answers to the questions. To be clear, it is the failure to respond to the Information Subpoena which can lead to arrest, not the failure to pay the debt itself. Even then, the "arrest" consists of simply bringing you before the judge, who will hand you the questions and ask you to complete the form, after which you can leave. Social security is immune from collection. However, they will not necessarily know that the funds in your bank account are social security. This often happens if they try to levy on your bank account before sending you an Information Subpoena. If a creditor obtains a judgment against you and then levies on your bank account which contains social security funds, you must immediately send written notice to the court and the creditor stating that you oppose the levy on the grounds that the source of the funds was from social security. You will then need to appear in court and prove this to the judge by, for example, showing your bank statements which show the social security direct deposits. In the meantime, funds in your account up to the judgment amount may be frozen until the judge orders the funds released back to you. This may cause you trouble if you need the funds to pay rent or for support until you get before the judge. I urge you to seek legal advice from an attorney pertaining to your specific situation.

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Answered on 5/15/11, 6:42 pm

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