Would I be defying the law if I didn’t pay a small claims judgment?

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Would I be defying the law if I didn’t pay a small claims judgment?

I have a court date coming up in a month. A debt collector hired a lawyer to take me to my city’s district court for a small claim (a little over $1,000). I don’t have a job or any income coming in. I don’t own a home or car. If they do win and I don’t pay, would I be arrested/put in jail? I also read online that they could get the police to come to your home to seize your personal property (TV’s, computers, etc). Is that true?

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) People are not arrested simply for not being able to pay their debts, including judgments against them--the days of "debtor's prison" are long over.

2) However, if there is a judgment against you and you do not pay, there are circumstances under which the judgment creditor (here, the debt collector or its attorney) can have court officers (not the police, but constables or sheriff's deputies) seize some of your personal property and sell it for the benefit of the creditor. This is called "executing" on personal property, and is one way that judgment creditors can ensure they are paid. It doesn't always happen, and it involves some work and paperwork on their end, but it is an option they have.


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