Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) November 5, 2012 - Debtors' prisons have been generally outlawed in the United States since the mid-19th century. Recent reports show that legal distinction becoming blurred.
The Constitution of the State of Florida, Section 11, states that “no person shall be imprisoned for debt, except in cases of fraud.”
“Debt is a serious legal matter, but rightfully a civil matter, not a criminal one,” commented O. Reginald Osenton, a Brandon bankruptcy attorney.
When a creditor takes a debtor to court in Florida, the creditor will likely ask the court to order the debtor to submit a document called a Fact Information Sheet. This is a financial disclosure form detailing a debtor's significant assets and liabilities. Failure to submit the required documents within the allotted time, usually 45 days, may result in the debtor being held in contempt of court. This could result in an arrest warrant being issued.
Alternately, or in addition to the documentation required of a debtor, a creditor may call the debtor to an “examination” in civil court, whereupon they will try to gain additional information from the debtor about his finances and ability to pay. When debtors fail to make a required court appearance, they may be held in contempt of court, and the creditor may ask for a “body attachment” to be issued. This is an arrest warrant specifying that the debtor be held until his next court hearing, or until bond is posted.
These practices are drawing criticism from some attorneys and politicians, who say they create a system of modern-day debtors' prisons. Of particular concern are some reports of judges setting bond at the amount owed and then ordering the bond turned over to the creditor. Some say this effectively turns the court and local law enforcement into debt collection agents of lenders.
“These reports raise complex issues of the role of our criminal justice system in cases of unpaid debt,” added Mr. Osenton. “Anyone facing a court debt judgment should be sure to comply with all court orders and consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.”
Osenton Law Office, PA
500 Lithia Pinecrest Road
Brandon, Florida 33511
Call: (813) 654-5777
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