You cannot go to jail for not paying a debt collector. This question seems to be a very common question and it shouldn't be. We believe that this question may be prompted by prohibited tactics utilized by debt collectors. To be clear, it is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to tell you that you are criminally liable or to even imply that you are. If you have been told this by a debt collector, you should give us a call immediately so that we can help you determine your next steps and if recovery under the FDCPA is an option for you.
Owing a Debt Isn't a Crime
Although it is very common for debt collectors to want you to believe otherwise, owing a debt isn't a crime. There are some circumstances in which refusal or failure to pay could result in criminal liability but those are generally only applicable to things such as taxes and child-support. If you owe a debt for a credit card, car loan or even house loan, rest assured that you will not be sent to prison if you fall on hard times and become unable to pay.
If A Debt Collector Says You Are Going to Jail
If you have been told by a debt collector that you are going to jail, then they have violated the FDCPA and you should immediately consult with an attorney. Under the FDCPA, you have only 1 year from time the incident occured to bring a lawsuit. After that, you no longer have a remedy under the FDCPA. It is crucial that you contact an attorney the moment you believe you have become a victim of FDCPA violations.
Debt collectors do not have to state your are liable for criminal activity, they can also imply it and still run afoul of the FDCPA. If you are unsure, you should consult with an attorney.
FDCPA Has a Fee Shifting Provision
Most hesitate to call an attorney or seek consultation from an attorney because they assume the cost will be prohibitive. It is not the case for FDCPA claims. The FDCPA has a 'fee shifting' provision. This means that the debt collector ends up with the burden of your reasonable attorney's fees and costs. This provision was added to the FDCPA to ensure that consumers were afforded the full protection of the FDCPA at all times, not just when they have the ability to pay an attorney.
FDCPA Claims Are Not The Only Claims
Pro-se plaintiffs(those who bring their own claims) are often very narrow in the recovery they are seeking and often miss the mark on getting what they are owed. This typically happens because pro-se plaintiffs often do not know all of the laws that protect consumers at both the federal and state levels. It is very common that when a debt collector violates the FDCPA, they also violate state laws and other federal laws. This is why it is not recommended to handle your own FDCPA claim. Since the burden of attorney's fees and costs are shifted to the debt collector, a victim of prohibited debt collection tactics stands to gain far more from an attorney than to lose.
At Starks Law, we offer free consultations to go over any legal matter relating to debt collectors and debt collector tactics. Give us a call today to speak to an attorney and we will gladly assist you in determining all the violations that a debt collector may have committed and what your possible recovery could be.