Can a judgment debtor be imprisoned for failing to pay a judgment in California? The answer is “no.” Formerly, a judgment debtor was subject to imprisonment for failure to satisfy a judgment. The prior version of Code of Civil Procedure section 1143 et seq. provided a procedure for release from prison including notice to the judgment creditor and a hearing. However, civil arrest was rarely used apart for contempt proceedings, and the civil arrest statues were repealed in 1973.
Under current law in California, a person may not be imprisoned in a civil action for debt, whether before or after judgment. However, the prohibition does not affect any power a court may have to imprison a person who violates a court order. In the judgment enforcement context, this often arises in connection with debtor examinations. If the debtor fails to appear at a court-ordered examination, a warrant can be issued for the debtor’s arrest.
If you need representation in enforcing court orders relating to California judgments, feel free to contact our firm to discuss.