Can I Go To Prison For Debt? Free Advice. StepChange. (2024)

A lot of people worry that not paying their debts could mean going to prison. The answer to this is almost always no.

More than a century ago, prison was a real risk for many types of ordinary household debt. These days, you do not go to prison for non-payment of most types of debt.

What types of debt could lead to imprisonment?

Some types of priority debt could result in prison if you do not pay.

Things like:

Prison is a last resort even with these types of debt.

You need to have either:

  • Ignored the debt, or
  • Refused to pay

Do not ignore these debts. We offer free debt advice.

You cannot be sent to prison for not paying most common debts. This includes:

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

Are there any situations where other debts could lead to prison?

There are some situations where you could be:

  • Arrested and taken to court, or
  • Sent to prison after a creditor has taken you to court

This is rare and is a last resort if you have not cooperated with the court.

For example:

  • You live in England or Wales
  • You do not pay a County Court judgment (CCJ)
  • The people you owe apply to take money from your wages using an attachment of earnings
  • You ignore the letters the court sends you about this
  • At this point:
    • A bailiff could be sent to take you to court
    • You could be fined or sent to prison for up to 14 days

The fine or prison is a punishment for not following the court’s instructions. It is not for the debt itself.

Some letters from creditors are misleading.

  • It is not true that you could be sent to prison for not paying a debt
  • Unless the debt is a 'priority debt' listed above.

Make a complaint if they threaten this.

Worried about debts?

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

Can I Go To Prison For Debt? Free Advice. StepChange. (2024)


Can I Go To Prison For Debt? Free Advice. StepChange.? ›

Refused to pay

Can you go to jail for not paying debt in the UK? ›

No, you can't go to prison for unpaid debts – not unless you have knowingly committed fraud and someone proves it in a court of law. The exception to this is council tax debts – if the court decides there's no good reason for you not to pay council tax or if you simply refuse to do so, you can go to prison.

What happens if a credit card company sues you and you can't pay? ›

You may lose the ability to dispute the debt, if you believe you don't owe it or that the amount is wrong, and depending on your situation and your state's laws, the creditor may be able to: Garnish your wages. Place a lien against your property. Move to freeze funds in your bank account.

What happens if you refuse to pay a debt collector? ›

If you don't pay, the collection agency can sue you to try to collect the debt. If successful, the court may grant them the authority to garnish your wages or bank account or place a lien on your property. You can defend yourself in a debt collection lawsuit or file bankruptcy to stop collection actions.

Can I just never pay my debt? ›

“Technically, you can stop paying your credit card bills, but it isn't advisable,” said Tayne. “It will make it difficult for you to borrow money for years to come. Plus, you'll get hounded by your creditors and collection agencies and could even get sued.”

Can UK debt be enforced in US? ›

Most of the time, international creditors will have to bring a court action in the United States. Not only that, but in the United States, each state specifies statutes of limitations within which a creditor must file an action to recover debts.

What happens after 7 years of not paying debt UK? ›

There's no time limit for the creditor to enforce the order. If the court order was made more than 6 years ago, the creditor has to get court permission before they can use bailiffs.

What are the chances a debt collector will sue? ›

The short answer: about 15% of the time. But whether or not your credit card company decides to sue you for non-payment depends on several factors. Read on to find out why credit card companies sue, what happens when they do, and what you can do if you're facing a lawsuit for past-due debt.

Can you be jailed for not paying credit card debt? ›

Can I go to jail if I don't pay my credit card debt? NO. You cannot go to jail simply for failing to pay your credit card debt. It is also illegal for creditors or debt collectors to threaten you with arrest or any kind of criminal penalty to try to get you to pay.

How long before a debt becomes uncollectible? ›

Old (Time-Barred) Debts

In California, there is generally a four-year limit for filing a lawsuit to collect a debt based on a written agreement.

What's the worst a debt collector can do? ›

The worst thing they can do

If you fail to pay it off, the collection agency could file a suit. If you were to fail to show up for your court date, the debt collector could get a summary judgment. If you make an appearance, the collector might still get a judgment.

Will a debt collector sue me for $500? ›

Collection agencies usually won't sue you for a debt of less than $500. While every collection agency has a different policy regarding debt lawsuits, you should feel reasonably safe from a legal claim if you owe less than $500 on a debt. However, if you receive a court summons from a collection agency, don't ignore it.

What happens after 7 years of not paying debt? ›

The debt will likely fall off of your credit report after seven years. In some states, the statute of limitations could last longer, so make a note of the start date as soon as you can.

How to pay debt with no money? ›

How to get out of debt when you have no money
  1. Step 1: Stop taking on new debt. ...
  2. Step 2: Determine how much you owe. ...
  3. Step 3: Create a budget. ...
  4. Step 4: Pay off the smallest debts first. ...
  5. Step 5: Start tackling larger debts. ...
  6. Step 6: Look for ways to earn extra money. ...
  7. Step 7: Boost your credit scores.
Dec 5, 2023

What debts never go away? ›

Key takeaways

Loans, medical debt and credit card debt are generally all able to be discharged through bankruptcy. Tax debt, alimony, spousal or child support and student loans are all typically ineligible for discharge.

How do I get rid of debt collectors without paying? ›

You can sue the debt collector for violating the FDCPA. If you sue under the FDCPA and win, the debt collector must generally pay your attorney's fees and may also have to pay you damages. If you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB.

What happens if you ignore debt UK? ›

Creditors can start court action any time if you do not contact them. Ignoring a debt risks you getting a: CCJ. Decree.

How long can you legally be chased for a debt in the UK? ›

While debts can technically be claimed anytime in the future, debt collection in the UK is controlled by the 'statute of limitations'. This means that after six years, unsecured debts can become known as 'statute barred', which means they can be written off and you can no longer be chased by debt collectors.

Can you be chased for a UK debt abroad? ›

Can the people I owe chase me for debts in another country? People you owe in other countries can take action to collect a debt, including: Using a debt collection agency in the country you live in. Starting court action in the country you live in.

Can you go to jail for not paying a fine in the UK? ›

In extreme cases you could be put in prison, but normally only if the court thinks you're deliberately not paying. Court fines are a priority debt. This means you need to pay them before debts like credit cards.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6013

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.