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Can i go to jail on a small claim court for a credit card debt?

Belleville, IL |
Attorney answers 4


No. They can get a judgment but they cannot put you in jail unless there was fraud.

The first thing you need to do if and when you get sued is file an Answer. The summons will tell you that you must “appear” by way of an Answer in 10, 20 or 30 days, “depending on the method of service.”


You need a lawyer, but if you cannot afford one right away, rather then do nothing and have a judgment entered against you, is to “appear” by filing something!

Many people think this means they have to go to Court and this is incorrect. 90% of all lawsuits end in Default Judgments because the defendant (person getting sued) did not file an Answer.

I recommend you go to the free form I have on my website. Print it out and fill it out as instructed. You must answer the numbered paragraphs on the Complaint by writing them into the appropriate lines in the Answer. The Answer will allow you to preserve your rights and will prohibit a default judgment (i.e. you did not show up) from being entered against you.

Mimic the paperwork you got when you got sued. Answer all the paragraphs of the Complaint by writing the numbers in lines 1, 2 or 3.

Almost 100% of attorneys will deny what is owed because they did not do the calculations and do not know what the basis for the number is…

When you file the Answer that is your “not guilty”. You have the right to make the person suing you (Plaintiff) prove their case, but you must also answer the complaint truthfully.

Make sure you fill in the name and address of the attorney suing you before you bring this paperwork to the Court. Mail it to the attorney suing you right away!

Check out the guide I have drafted on the Avvo profile. This will provide more detailed instructions. If it is helpful remember to indicate that and get the guide read!

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.


Nope, we don't have debtors prison here in the US (Oh wait, we do in Illinois for Child Support Arrears, but I digress).


No, you cannot go to jail for failing to pay a credit card debt (unless, as previously states, you committed fraud). The credit card company can obtain a judgment against you and attempt to garnish wages or attach to property, but you cannot be arrested for this type of debt.

If you have questions about bankruptcy, you may wish to contact my office. See my profile or

Disclaimer: The above response is not intended to create, nor does it create, either an attorney-client relationship or an ongoing duty to respond to questions. It is intended to be solely the educated opinion of the author and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the inquiring person and additional or differing facts might change the response. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the states of Illinois and Michigan. Responses are answers to general legal questions and the inquiring party should consult a local attorney for specific answers and advice.


The other posters are correct, that you cannot go to jail for owing the debt. However, it is possible to be arrested if they get a judgment, and you are served with a citation to discover assets requiring you to go to court to tell them what assets you have. If you do not go to court after being served with a citation to discover assets, it is possible for them to get a finding that you are in contempt of court for not appearing and then a "body attachment" which means that they sheriff's office would arrest you and bring you to court. You would be released once the court appearance was over. There was a recent story in the news about this becoming more common, possibly due to the increase in debt buyers filing collection cases. The moral of this story is, do not ignore a citation to discover assets!

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