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Can You Go to Jail for Being in Debt?

If you’ve ever seen (or read) Master in Commander, you may recall that the central character was attempting to flee debtor’s prison. Debtor’s prison was very common for many years, and the question is often asked: can the government put you in jail for owing money to a private party? The answer is no. The United States used to have a Federal prison for unpaid debts; however, it was abolished in 1833. Some states still allow debt collectors to seek arrest warrants for debtors in default, but Florida is not one of those states. Further, the US constitution prevents incarcerating someone simply for owing a debt.

However, if you owe a debt to the state or federal government, you may find yourself in jail. The recent economic downturn has caused thousands of Floridians to owe court fees, and some of them are being jailed — not for owing a debt, but for “failing to follow a court order”.

Defaulting on a debt is rarely a good thing. If you have mounting debt and are unsure of what to do, contact a Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney to discuss whether bankruptcy is a good option.

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