Debtors Prison in Utah

Is debtors prison real? Can I go to jail for debt? Many consumers ask the same questions and the answer may scare you a little. Actually, the answer may scare you a lot.

You can be arrested for debt or sent to debtors prisons

Debtors Prison

Historically, debtors prisons were used to incarcerate debtors who were unable to repay debt. Although it defies logic to lock someone up instead of letting them remain free to earn the money needed to repay the debt, that is how our forefathers handled the problem. Many states allow consumers to be arrested for debt under certain circumstances.

Jail for Unpaid Child Support

In Utah, failing to pay child support payments can get you arrested. It only happens in extreme cases however. Judges are understandably reluctant to jail someone for debt, even child support, because doing so deprives that person of his earning ability. Debtors prisons defy logic in that sense. Accordingly, failing to pay child support usually results in garnishment of wages rather than incarceration.

Jail for Debt

Strictly speaking you cannot be arrested for failing to pay a debt in Utah. Unfortunately, you can be arrested for failing to obey a court order. This de facto debtors prison occurs when a creditor sues you successfully and you fail to appear at a hearing for a supplemental order. Even if the debt is relatively small most judges will issue a bench warrant for your arrest for failing to appear at that hearing. The warrant is typically around $300 but can be thousands of dollars if the situation deserves a higher amount. If you are arrested under a bench warrant the police will indeed take you to jail for debt. You will be released only upon payment of the amount of the warrant. That amount will then go to your creditor to apply it to the outstanding debt.

Jail for Bad Checks

You can also go to jail in Utah for writing bad checks. In this case the punishment is actually more of a criminal penalty but deserves a mention here because a lot of consumers write checks they cannot cover not realizing that doing so can land them in jail for failing to repay a debt.


The sad fact is that although debtors prison doesn’t technically exist in Utah you can go to jail for debt under certain circumstances. Use caution in your financial dealings and you should be fine. Of course, always appear when a court summons you. Ignoring a court order is the fastest way to go to jail for debt.

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