The headlines on stories about a recent incident in Texas may have debtors worried about what could happen to them if they fall behind on their debts.
A Houston man named Paul Aker was involved in a sequence of events that began with defaulting on a student loan and ended with his arrest. In a subsequent interview with a local Fox affiliate, the caption displayed on-screen said that Aker was “arrested by US Marshals for student loan debt.” Print headlines weren’t much better. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking that we had gone back in time to the days of debtors’ prisons.
Fortunately for all of us, law enforcement officers are not, in fact, arresting anyone simply for nonpayment of debts. In 2007, a default judgment was entered against Aker when he failed to respond to a complaint of nonpayment. Five years later, Aker was ordered to appear at a deposition to explain why he was still not making loan payments. The court specifically noted that he would be arrested if he did not appear in court.
When Aker still failed to comply with court orders, a warrant for his arrest was issued, and U.S. Marshals began searching for him. It took nearly four years for them to locate him, at which point they arrested him at his Houston home and took him to court to sort out the matter.
Falling behind on your debts is a serious matter, but not so serious as to lead directly to your arrest. That is, of course, unless you repeatedly fail to respond to court orders. If you have debt problems or are ordered to appear in court, seek the help of an attorney right away.