When you owe money to a creditor or the government, it can cause you significant stress and worry. Many people struggle to make ends meet in Texas and trying to pay a debt on time can be a significant financial hardship. Whether it is unpaid child support payments, student debt, credit card debt, or medical debt, borrowers often worry about the consequences of not paying back a debt.
Debtor’s prison was abolished in the United States a long time ago. This means that debt collectors cannot bring you to jail for not paying back consumer debt. Although you cannot go to jail as a direct result of unpaid debts in Texas, there are some situations that could lead to jail time until your debts are paid off.
If you are worried about unpaid civil debts, consumer debts, credit card debts, or child support payments, contact an experienced debt attorney today. Debt collectors in Texas can be ruthless, and you must take measures to protect yourself against a debt lawsuit or potential jail time.
Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC
Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC has what it takes to protect you against the unfair practices of debt collectors in Texas. He has been helping Texans with debt relief, court orders, paying taxes, debt issues, and tax-related crime for over 26 years. If a creditor issues a lawsuit against you, and you do not attend court, you could risk going to jail for unpaid debts.
Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC will do everything he can to protect your best interests and avoid any serious consequences of failing to pay back debt. He can help you set up a payment plan, negotiate with debt collectors or creditors, help you consolidate your debts, and ensure your legal rights are protected at all costs.
Do not waste any time with unpaid debts. Call our law firm today to schedule an initial consultation at 210-853-2135.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law set up to protect consumers from the unfair practices of third-party debt collectors. Some practices that are prohibited under this Act include phone calls to debtors outside of regular hours, harassment, abuse, or oppressive conduct, and using unfair methods to recover debts.
Texas also introduced the Texas Debt Collection Act, which applies to original creditors, third-party collection agencies, and attorneys collecting a debt. Under this Act, debt collectors cannot use misleading, fraudulent, or threatening information to recover a debt. If they do, they can face civil or criminal penalties for their abusive conduct.
Both Acts prevent debt collectors from threatening debtors with jail time for unpaid credit card debt or any type of consumer debt. They cannot legally make false statements regarding the debt, like claiming that you have committed a crime, that they are government representatives, or that you could go to jail for the debt.
When a debt collector illegally threatens you with jail time for a debt, they can be held accountable under the Texas Debt Collection Act. Your attorney can help you bring a claim against a debt collector for making false accusations to recover debt from you.
Can You Go To Jail For Debt in Texas?
A person cannot be sent to jail for an unpaid civil debt in Texas. A debt collector cannot threaten you with jail time for unpaid debts for your home equity loan, medical bills, credit card debt, or other consumer debt. You will also never be arrested by law enforcement or required to do community service because of unpaid consumer debts.
However, there are some situations in which you could go to jail because of an unpaid debt. There are certain ways that debt collectors work around the law to put people in jail for failing to pay debts.
Contempt of Court Order
The original creditor of your unpaid debt can issue a lawsuit against you in a civil court for an unpaid debt. They will usually initiate a lawsuit after the debtor takes drastic action to prevent paying back the loan, such as closing their bank account. However, they could sue you at any stage for simply not paying back the debt on time or failing to make payments.
If you receive a court summons regarding a debt lawsuit, you must appear in court. Failing to appear in court for a lawsuit could lead to the Judge finding you in contempt of court. Being found in contempt of court can lead to jail time. The Judge may issue an arrest warrant for your arrest for failing to appear in court.
If you are found in contempt of court, you could face up to six months of jail time. On top of this, you will face added fines, court costs, and other penalties for this conviction. So, although the debtor’s prison is technically abandoned, there is still a possibility of facing a prison sentence for failing to pay a debt that you owe.
Criminal Justice Debt
Criminal prosecution leads to fines and debt in most cases. The charges you can receive after being convicted of a crime can include fines and additional surcharges, attorneys’ fees, court fees, costs of setting up a payment plan, and interest that accrues from not paying criminal justice debt.
Often, those convicted of a crime do not have a lot of money after their criminal case. If you were convicted of fraud or monetary crimes, you may have had your assets seized. This can make it extremely difficult to pay court fees and to pay back debt. The Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot punish indigent criminal defendants for not paying back fines and court costs related to their sentences.
In some states, however, lawmakers have worked their way around this. This means that you can be sent back to prison for unpaid criminal justice debt in some states, such as Alabama and Colorado. In Texas, however, this is not possible. Criminal defendants will not be sent back to jail for failing to pay court fees in Texas.
Tax fraud is when a person intentionally gives false information on their tax return to reduce the amount of tax they pay. Examples of fraud can include not reporting income, claiming false deductions, using the wrong social security number, or claiming personal expenses as business expenses. Tax fraud is a crime under both Texas and federal law. If you owe federal taxes because of tax fraud, you could face jail time.
Fraud cases are only brought when there is sufficient evidence to prove that the person had the intention of defrauding the government. This is because people often accidentally give false information on their tax returns, as tax law is quite complicated. However, if you are charged with fraud and convicted, you could face up to five years of jail time.
Distinct from tax fraud, tax evasion is when a person knowingly refuses to pay or file their tax returns, when they have the means to do so. Some examples of tax evasion include under-reporting income, claiming illegitimate dependents or expenses, and falsifying your income records.
Like fraud, tax evasion is also a crime under federal and Texas law. The penalties for being convicted of evasion include up to five years of jail time and fines of up to $100,000. If your corporation was sued because of tax evasion, the penalties increase to $500,000.
Can You Go To Jail For Child Support in Texas?
Many people in Texas are required to pay child support for one or more dependents. Particularly after a divorce, it can be quite difficult to keep up with child support payments, as many people are left in a difficult financial situation. However, if you do not pay child support, you can face serious consequences.
Court-ordered child support payments can be enforced by the primary caregiver of the children if the other parent is not paying on time or failing to make payments. They can contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division to enforce these payments. The penalties for failing to pay child support can include wage garnishment, property liens, interception of income tax returns, and contempt of court.
If you do not make support payments and you are found in contempt of the court order, you risk going to prison for up to six months. You will also have to pay extra fines on top of the debt that you owe, which will increase the longer you do not pay.
Criminal nonsupport in Texas is a felony charge relating to the intentional failure to pay court-ordered child support. Because this is a state jail felony, you can face serious fines and jail time for failing to pay.
If you continue to not make the payments after two years or the debt you owe is more than $10,000, you could be charged with criminal contempt. The penalties for criminal contempt for unpaid child support include up to two years in jail and severe fines.
Can I Go To Jail For Time-Barred Debt in Texas?
All debts in Texas have a statute of limitations for collectors to collect money. Once this statute of limitations has passed, the debt becomes time-barred. This means that a collection agency or debt collector cannot initiate a lawsuit against the debtor for unpaid consumer debts. Before 2019, debtors could legally get consumers to engage with the debt as a way to ‘revive’ it from being time-barred.
However, new laws provide that even if you engage with an old debt after the statute of limitations has passed, the debt collector cannot bring a lawsuit against you. This means that they cannot bring you to court for an unpaid consumer debt, and you cannot be found in contempt of court for not attending a hearing. As a result, you cannot go to jail for a time-barred debt in Texas.
If a debt collector is threatening you with jail time for a time-barred debt, it is vital that you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. They can help assess whether the debt is actually time-barred and if so, can ensure that the collector is held responsible for fraudulent and manipulative behavior.
Dealing With Unpaid Debt in Texas
The best way to avoid being found in contempt of court for an unpaid debt is to deal with the debt head-on. This means hiring an experienced attorney to help you set up a payment plan and to assess whether there is any debt relief available for you. Your attorney can help you with debt consolidation to reduce interest charges and prevent you from getting into trouble with the courts.
If you have many debts that you are struggling to pay back, you may be able to set up a payment plan combining all the debts. This way, you can try to reduce the money you pay back by minimizing interest rates and penalties for failing to pay on time. If you owe a lot of consumer debt, you could set up a credit consolidation or unsecured debt consolidation.
For federal taxes, you may be able to set up an installment agreement. With an installment agreement, you can pay back your debt in monthly payments that are suited to your current financial situation. This means you can merge your debt into a single monthly payment and do not have to worry about meeting multiple deadlines for payment each month.
However, it is important to contact an attorney before setting up debt consolidation. They can assess whether you are entitled to tax relief and help ensure that the agreement you arrange is fair and within your financial limits.
Contact Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC Today!
When a debt collector threatens to bring you to jail for failing to pay a debt, it is extremely frightening. Although a debt collection agency cannot do this under state consumer collection laws, they still do it quite often. Unless you have received a court order or are dealing with state taxes, such as child support, you do not have to worry about going to jail.
If you have received a court order for debt, unpaid support payments, or been threatened by a debt collector with jail time, contact Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC as soon as possible. Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC has been dealing with debt collection agencies and creditors for over 26 years. He has significant experience with local Texas and federal laws on debt collection and can help you avoid going to jail for debt.
Ronald Arthur Stearns Sr. PLLC has received recognition from the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association and has many professional and important accolades for his achievements. He is dedicated to fighting fiercely on behalf of his clients and will do everything in his power to get your debt relieved and help you set up a payment plan.
Call our firm today at 210-853-2135 to schedule a consultation.