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I had a court hearing for unpaid medical bills. The date slipped my mind and i missed it. Will i be arrested?

Lewiston, ME |

i had a court hearing for unpaid medical bills. The date slipped my mind and i missed it. Will i be arrested?

Attorney Answers 3


There is no debtors prison in the United States, the worst that can happen is the creditor will obtain a judgment and pursue you for that judgment. They can garnish wages, bank account, put liens on property etc. You might want to consult a local bankruptcy attorney to see if they can be of assistance.

Feel free to email me directly if you have any further questions or would like a free legal consultation.

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Legal Information is Not Legal Advice
My answer provides information about the law based on the limited information provided in the questions asked and is not intended to be legal advice. The law differs in each jurisdiction and may be interpreted or applied differently depending on the location or situation. I highly recommend that you consult with an attorney to discuss the specific details of your situation so you can get legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. The information in my answer is for educational and information purposes only, and is not legal advice or legal opinions. The answer provided to the question asked does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship.

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I concur with Kevin's answer above -- the Declaration of Independence ended the threat of being jailed for not paying your debts. The only caveat which some consumers misunderstand -- if there is a judgment and the Plaintiff (i.e. your creditor) serves you with discovery (i.e., questions about what you own, where you bank, where you work, etc.) you MUST try to answer the questions and comply with their requests. If you do not, you could be held in contempt of court....which DOES carry with it (in most states) the possibility of jail.

The difference? One matter deals with not paying a debt. The other matter deals with disobeying a court order to answer discovery. You CAN be thrown in jail for disobeying a Judge's order to show up in court and answering certain creditor requests/questions.

I would recommend talking to an attorney in the community where you live to figure out a way to either try and settle this debt, or, if you have enough other debt, consider bankruptcy protection.

DISCLAIMER: I am not licensed in ME so this is in no way an attempt to practice law in your state. Seek counsel of a licensed ME attorney. Good luck.

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You cannot be arrested but an order may have been issued by the Court and filed as a Judgment. Your wages could be garnished or the bank account frozen.

The amounts that can be taken from your wages to satisfy a garnishment depend on how much you make. Also, this number will change in July 2010, so I am going to give you the new numbers, which in many States will equal or be less then the current minimum wage in your State.

The law that controls garnishments is the federal “Consumer Credit Protection Act” 15 USC §§ 1671-1677. It protects a portion of the wages based on the following schedule that is tied to the federal minimum wage. On July 23, 2009 the minimum wage increases to $7.25 per hour. (You can use this number to estimate the current amount protected).

The amount of disposable income that cannot be garnished on or after that date is $217.50, or 30 hours at the Federal minimum wage for the week in question.

Only the amount over that can begin to be garnished. It is your employers’ duty to determine the appropriate amount of the garnishment, and not just rely on an order from a court.

Only the amount over $217.50 can be subject to the garnishment when total compensation is less than $290.00. If disposable earnings are more than $290.00 in any given week up to 25% of the wages can be garnished under federal standards. However State restrictions on garnishment should be checked in every case, as they may provide greater protection.

Conversely in many Sates Child Support payments or arrears are subject to higher maximum withholding standards.

In New York the maximum amount recoverable is ten percent (10%) of gross income, or the federal maximum, whichever is less.

If the debtor is subject to garnishment for alimony, support or maintenance, the combined garnishments cannot exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of disposable earnings, but can be as high as 65% for child support.

Income executions are prioritized by order of delivery to the Sheriff, but garnishments for alimony support or maintenance always take priority.

The execution is a two-stage process. First, the sheriff serves the execution on the debtor at his or her residence. If the debtor does not begin making payments within twenty (20) days, the sheriff levies on the employer.

Good Luck!

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.

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