Can you be arrested for not attending a civil hearing for unsecured debt?

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Can you be arrested for not attending a civil hearing for unsecured debt?

The paper says “attendance required” it’s the first paper I’ve received and it’s the first hearing. I know if I go, either way the plaintiff will win. I don’t have any way to pay them or make payment arrangements. If I don’t show up for the hearing, is there any way I could be arrested or taken into custody? What steps would the plaintiff take to try and get their judgement money from a person with no income, no car, doesn’t own a home, only rents and has personal belongings. Would they come after my apartment or anything I own?

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

No, there is no arrest for failure to attend a hearing in a lawsuit over some purported debt that you owe. If you  don't show, you will, however, lose by default (basically by forfeiting).

A creditor can't "come after" your apartment if you don't own it--they have no right to your landlord's property. In the situation you describe, their most likely recourse would be, assuming you work, to garnish your wages--that is, to have a court officer direct your employer to send a portion of your wages to the creditor. If you earn little more than minimum wage, however, they effectively will be able to take only a small dollar amount (if any): creditors cannot garnish wages except to the extent weekly wages exceed 30 times federal minimum wage. They could also try to have certain of your personal belongings seized and sold (executed on), but most creditors don't bother unless you have expensive electronics, fine furniture, jewlery, or something like an ATV or dirtbike (or possibly expensive bicycle), etc.


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