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In Jail For Being In Debt

Posted by dreamgarden (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 13, 10 at 14:48

They say debtors' prisons were abolished long ago, but this article seems to suggest otherwise. It figures that the the debt collection industry doesn't want the world to know these arrests are happening. What the heck are people (who have lost their jobs or have had a medical problem) supposed to do if they can be jailed for not paying a bill? The financial industry isn't the only one in need of serious reform.

In Jail For Being In Debt
By CHRIS SERRES and GLENN HOWATT
Star Tribune staff writers

You committed no crime, but an officer is knocking on your door. More Minnesotans are surprised to find themselves being locked up over debts.

June 10, 2010 "Star Tribune" -- As a sheriff's deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer's purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.

No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense -- missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. "They have no right to do this to me," said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. "Not for a stupid credit card."

It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect......

A link that might be useful:

www.startribune.com/investigators/95692619.html


Follow-Up Postings:

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Know the debt collection laws for your state

Somebody posted a helpful suggestion in the comment section of this article. Odd name for a website, but useful info for those who might need advice about how to deal with debt collectors.

Tange2 ·
I had defaulted on a secured credit card back in 1998. My deposit was $500 and the account was billed several late fees which totalled around $526. The company who issued the card had contacted me and I told them my deposit would cover $500 worth of the charges. I never heard another thing from this account until I started getting letters and phone calls from some collection agency in 2003. They wanted me to send them $180 to settle. I started looking into the laws and found out two things; If you send one of these collectors one cent, you have legitimised their claim and there is a statute of limitations for debt. It just so happened the statute of limitations had run out on that particular card. They would call me on the phone and I would tell them to take me to court. They would say they never said anything about going to court. I finally told them they knew as well as I did they didn't have a leg to stand on due to the statute of limitations and I was not about to send them anything to legitimise their claim. I sent a cease and desist letter to them and never heard from them again. My point being know the debt collection laws for your state before doing anything.


A link that might be useful:

www.bendover.com/adiosbottomfeeder.asp


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

The article was misleading. The person in the article wasn't arrested for debts. She was arrested for "failure to appear" and the judge issued a bench warrant. You can't ignore legally served petitions to appear in court. These are rarely served unless some other crime has been committed to bring the person to the attention of the authorities. If you are stopped for a traffic infraction, the first thing the officer will do is perform a search to see if you have any outstanding warrants.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

What Devorah said. If you miss a court hearing, you're always at risk for being arrested. I'd be curious to know if the sheriff tried to contact her before arresting her. They usually do.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

Devorah beat me to it.

Missing a court ordered appearance is a BAD thing. The judge will normally issue a bench warrant for your arrest to MAKE you appear.

If people are being jailed for having unpaid debt, that's one thing, and the Star Trib should have picked a case that is far more representative.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

"The person in the article wasn't arrested for debts. She was arrested for "failure to appear" and the judge issued a bench warrant."

Ditto that!


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

"If people are being jailed for having unpaid debt, that's one thing, and the Star Trib should have picked a case that is far more representative."

How about this example; indefinite incarceration over a $300.00 debt. The punishment for a robbery conviction in California is up to five years state prison (more if you use a gun). At least a bank robber has an idea how long he will be in prison for stealing. WHERE is the justice in being indefinitely incarcerated for a $300 debt for an unpaid bill at a Home Depot? Where is the weapon?! Its in the creditors hands!

A few other points that went unnoticed:

""If you talk to 15 different counties, you'll find 15 different approaches to handling civil warrants," said Sgt. Robert Shingledecker of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. "Everything is based on manpower.""

15 different approaches? Yeah, thats fair.

"There are no standards here," said Gail Hillebrand, a senior attorney with the Consumers Union in San Francisco. "A borrower who lives on one side of the river can be arrested while another one goes free. It breeds disrespect for the law."

I can see how this breeds disrespect for the law. There are ponzi schemes in the paper every week. Some of these people stole millions of dollars from investors and get a 3 yr sentence or even probation. Is this right?

"It's certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it's also highly distasteful," said Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby. "The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt."

Why are the collection agencies being allowed to dictate what bail is?

There you go. 15+ different approaches, no standards and arbitrary bail for the exact amount owed, NOT the type of offense.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

hmm....you borrow, you fail to pay off debt or declare bankrupsy...sounds like theft?


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

Borrowing money and making no attempt to pay it off is theft. People like that belong in jail.

Poor baby, I hope what she bought was worth it.

I have one weekday off each week. For entertainment sometimes, I watch court shows. I can't believe how often people are asked why they don't pay back the money they borrowed, and they say, with genuine earnestness, that not having any money is their justification for not paying debts. Almost all have no employment or are under-employed, and show no remorse or guilt for basically refusing to pay for something they purchased, or repay a debt.

I only use credit cards for limited purchases, and may the balance each month. If i had refused to pay Home Depot for my new lawn mower, that would be theft, plain and simple.

It is a sad statement on society when thieves are presented as innocent victims of society. Nobody ever put a gun to my head to make me fill out a credit card app.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

"Borrowing money and making no attempt to pay it off is theft.
People like that belong in jail.
Poor baby, I hope what she bought was worth it. "

I wonder what any of the posters (who are smugly snarking about this particular woman's misfortune) would do if they lost their job (or husband) and were unable to pay their bills?

How ironic that corporate pirates who wiped out people's life savings and their pensions, got slapped on the wrist for orchestrating the biggest ponzi scheme to date (the TARP bailout), and yet not a SINGLE ONE of them is in jail.

Yet people who are unable to pay their debts because of job losses or medical bills can be indefinitely incarcerated.

Fair? No, yet not a SINGLE PERSON who has posted in this thread (so far) seems to think there is anything wrong with this.

I must be in a banker forum.(!)

As Thomas Jefferson once said: "Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”

What a sad statement about our society.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

Lost my job eight years ago. Husband lost three jobs in six years. (sadly, he was an alcoholic) We continued to look for employment and cut our spending to correspond to the income we were able to acquire with our new jobs.

It never, NEVER occurred to us to apply for credit cards and buy things we had no way to pay for.

We bought things at yard sales, or went without. We didn't have cable TV. Our internet connection was dial-up. I had a cell phone for emergencies only. We cooked our own meals. My car is eight years old. Dear departed husband's car was 17 years old, when I passed it on to a relative at his death.

People can behave in a fiscally responsible fashion, even with a loss of employment. One might say, it would be even more important.

I don't need lectures about how hard it is to lose a job. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

"Yet people who are unable to pay their debts because of job losses or medical bills can be indefinitely incarcerated.

Fair? No, yet not a SINGLE PERSON who has posted in this thread (so far) seems to think there is anything wrong with this."

Again, this person was arrested for failure to appear, not for owing her creditors, but for not showing up to court!


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

dreamgarden, I am curious, is this about you?


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

Hi Dreamgarden,

15 different approaches? Yeah, thats fair.

Its 15 DIFFERENT JURISDICTIONS!!! What do you expect?
No matter how thinly you slice the coin, there are always two sides.

I wonder what any of the posters (who are smugly snarking about this particular woman's misfortune) would do if they lost their job (or husband) and were unable to pay their bills?

A) I've been there... flat-ass broke, unemployed, and DEEPLY in debt. I am not at all unsympathetic to the hell of a life that is.

B) I never DODGED nor AVOIDED my creditors (let alone the LAW!)

C) I busted ass doing many different menial things to try to make a buck... all the while continually looking for ways to raise my life standard to permanently earn more. I made far less than minimum wage FOR A LONGGG TIME.

D) I methodically communicated with my creditors (which DID NOT make them any friendlier... but kept them (mostly) from pursuing litigation. And when there were those who did, I spent my time in the courtroom dealing with the hired-to-be-butthead attorneys, and explaining to the judge my methodical communications approach (which *ALWAYS* gained me leniency.)

I was ignorant of money dynamics & personal credit back-in-the-day (and in compensation I drove myself eventually to the opposite extreme.) Still, I respected my community, the people who trusted in me with their money (the creditors,) and the legal system.

The subject of the post you brought was a dodging deadbeat... a common thief. There's a huge difference.

Cheers,
Dave Donhoff
Leverage Planner


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

I wouldn't go so far as to call all the debtors caught up in this "dodging deadbeats". Most people who are living on the financial fringe tend not to have permanent addresses. They don't own a home that they live in for 20 years. All the creditor has to due is serve notice to the last known address. If the debtor has moved (maybe multiple times for older debts), they might not know that they were supposed to appear in court. It is actually a lot easier for someone to have a warrant issued for them than many people realize. You don't have to wantonly disobey the law, simple carelessness can trip you up as well.

Ultimately though, if you borrow money, you are responsible for repaying it. You need to stay in contact with your creditors even if you can't pay them immediately. If they send you a written notice, you need to open it. As long as you are working in good faith to pay your debts, there is about zero chance you will end up in jail. Unfortunately, too many people just completely disconnect to avoid the unpleasantness of debt collection. Doing that only makes the collectors take more aggressive action.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

the fact you go to em room make a debt loose your job because ur sick cant get one cause of a foreign invasion of workers then the fukin server is suppose to verify u were served insyead of leaving at last known adress make think ull heartless bastards.jude go to hell


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

I think Mark is drunk or otherwise under the influence.


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RE: In Jail For Being In Debt

The reason people aren't sent to jail for not paying debts (not appearing at a court hearing is another matter altogether) is very simple. Incarcerating people for debts prevents them from earning an income, thus insuring they will never be able to repay them. That leaves their creditors in an even worse postion than before, not to mention the taxpayers who will bear the cost for maintaining the prisoners . . . and maybe maintaining their dependant children, who will very likely wind up on welfare, as well.


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