Can You Go to Jail for not Paying a Payday Loan?
Over the last couple of years “payday” loans have become increasingly popular throughout the United States, including in the State of Texas. For a variety of reasons, the rates at which borrowers default on these loans is extremely high. If you have defaulted on a payday loan, or are concerned that you will default on one in the near future, you may be concerned that you will go to jail for not paying the loan. This is not true. You will not go to jail if you do not pay a “payday” loan.
The law in the United States is very clear – debtors cannot be jailed for failing to pay a debt. Our U.S. Constitution prohibits imprisonment for debt. Our bankruptcy laws are federal laws that enable debtors to file for bankruptcy protection when they are unable to repay their debts. Furthermore, debt collection is a civil law matter, not a criminal matter. A creditor may pursue collection of a debt through the civil courts in the United States; however, debtors cannot be prosecuted in criminal court for not paying a debt.
Let’s talk about how a pay day loan works. An individual who needs immediate cash due to a personal emergency can obtain a “payday loan” from any of the numerous payday loan companies throughout Texas. The borrower agrees to pay an exorbitant interest rate – often over 500 percent—for the loan. The borrower then gives the payday lender a post-dated check which is dated the same day as his/her next pay day. Alternatively, the borrower gives the lender the ability to take an automatic withdrawal from the borrower’s bank account on the day of the borrower’s next pay check hits his/her bank. Frequently, a borrower does not have the funds to repay the loan when it becomes due so the loan is rolled-over with yet another large chunk in interest added to the debt. Not surprisingly, borrowers often default because they cannot pay the loan plus all of the exorbitant interest and fees.
The creditor (the payday loan company) certainly has the right to pursue repayment through legal collection methods, including filing a small claims lawsuit against the debtor. However, they really attempt to collect the debt by calling you day and night, at work or at home. If they deposit your post-dated check and it “bounces”, or if there are insufficient funds in your account when the pay day lender attempts to repay itself, the pay day lender might tell you that you have committed a crime and are going to be arrested.
This is not true. A creditor cannot put you in jail. Only Prosecutors or U.S. Attorneys can pursue you if they believe that you have committed a crime. However, virtually every Prosecutor knows that not paying a pay day loan is not a crime and will not even attempt to prosecute you. In fact, most payday lenders know that Prosecutors have no time for a pay day lender using the state’s offices to collect their debt and crazy interest rates and will not even contact them. They will threaten to contact them in an attempt to scare you into paying. I have even seen Payday lenders lie and state that they are “Investigator Jones” in order to scare a debtor into paying a debt. Don’t let them scare you. It is not a crime to not pay a pay day loan.
The reason it is not a crime not to pay a pay day loan is because the creditor knew that you could not pay the loan when the loan was made! Otherwise, you would not be borrowing the money….right?!
Contact an Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you are concerned about a payday loan in default, bankruptcy may be the best solution. Not only will filing for bankruptcy cause all collection efforts by creditors to cease immediately, but it can eliminate most of your debt and provide you with a fresh start.
Call for a free initial consultation in either our Waco or Killeen office – 254-296-1161 or contact us online and we will be glad to help you get rid of your pay day loans and get started on your fresh start.