Pissed On by a Debt Collector

Now that my new website is live, I hope to get a good start on posing here regularly on legal topics. For today, please have a look at something I wrote some time ago, which I think is still apropos:

Strangely enough for a lawyer in our day and age, one of the things I care a great deal about is – wait for it – the LAW. It is particularly important to me that those of us who try to live within its limits, actually understand those limits.

The other day, I was prowling the halls of the 11th Floor of the Daley Center, where many small claims cases in Chicago go to die. While I was standing outside a court room checking the call sheet for one of my cases, a woman approached me, and asked how she could check in for the case. I told her to go see the Clerk – but she needed more details. You see, she was told by the attorney for her credit card company that if she didn’t show up in court that day, HE WOULD HAVE HER THROWN IN JAIL!

Now, it bears mentioning that, her case was up for return of service – in other words, it was her very first court date. There was absolutely no chance that she could have been put in jail. This is just another of the sleazy tactics being used by debt collection attorneys to scare the hell out of the debtors they are trying to “negotiate” with.

So, to set the record straight:

1. Civil debt, in and of itself, can not lead to jail time.

2. Lawyers that tell debtors that they are going to put the debtor in jail should be disbarred.

Now, there are of course situations in a civil case when a debtor could be locked up, but they center around being found guilty of contempt. For instance, if a judgment has been rendered against the debtor and the debtor refuses to answer the questions about assets that would allow the creditor to try and collect, they could be found guilty of contempt.

In short, if you don’t have a judgment against you yet, don’t let some lowlife debt-collector threaten you. The threats are empty, and under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, illegal. As a citizen, you have a moral obligation to tell this kind of bottom-feeding scum to go straight to hell.

Stay strong in your endeavors to protect what is yours, for your own good and that of your family.

Tim

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