Before Bankruptcy: Can I be arrested if I ignore a summons from a credit card company?

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People often ask me if they can be arrested if they ignore a summons from a credit card company.   In New York, the answer to this question is no.  In New Jersey, the answer is yes in some cases, but it can easily be avoided.

This is a good question.  The Wall Street Journal found that over 5,000 people were arrested for ignoring a summons during a recent year in just nine big counties around the country. But, this never ever happens in New York State.  And it rarely happens in New Jersey.  It’s also noteworthy that it can easily be avoided in New Jersey if you know what to do.


In New York State, owing a credit card company is strictly a civil matter.  It is not a criminal matter.  If you ignore a summons from a credit card company, the police cannot arrest you – period.

Even though you cannot be arrested, if you ignore their summons, the credit card company will obtain a default judgment against you.  They can use this “judgment” to try to freeze your bank account or garnish 10% of your salary.  But, they absolutely cannot arrest you.

If you are swamped with credit card lawsuits, you might want to consider bankruptcy.  The bankruptcy court is a federal court.  When you file bankruptcy, it overrides any credit card lawsuit ─ EVEN IF THEY ALREADY HAVE A JUDGMENT AGAINST YOU.

Please call us if you are considering bankruptcy.  You can speak with me or one of my associate attorneys who will advise you.  You can also watch a real consultation with one of my clients by clicking on the box below:


In New Jersey, the law is slightly different.  If you ignore the summons, the credit card company can obtain a default judgment and write you a letter demanding that you give them information about things such as where you bank or where you work.  You should fill out the information on the form they provide you and mail it back to them.

Do not refuse to fill out and mail the form to the credit card company’s lawyers.  This is a big mistake.  If you ignore their information request, the lawyers could then ask the Judge to have you arrested to bring you to Court.  When you are brought to the Court, they will require you to fill out the information on their form before they will let you leave.  PLEASE NOTE: YOU CAN AVOID THE ARREST IN NEW JERSEY IF YOU SIMPLY FILL OUT THE FORM AND PROMPTLY MAIL IT TO THE CREDIT CARD COMPANY’S LAWYERS.