Can I Go to Jail If I Don't Pay My Debts?

Authored By: Minneapolis - Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
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Can I go to jail if i don't pay my debts? +

You cant go to jail just for owing money in Minnesota.  But if there is a money judgment against you and you don't follow a court order or an order to appear in court, you can be arrested for contempt of court.   


Many people don't know there is a money judgment against them.  If you move a lot you may not have gotten the papers.  Or you may have ignored them because you didn't know what they were.


If you owe money and are behind in your payments, it might be a good idea to keep in contact with your creditors.  “Creditors” are the people or companies you owe money to.  You might be able to work out a payment plan and avoid the money judgment.


It is very important that you check your mail carefully!  Usually debt collection is handed over to other companies and you might not know the name of the company on the paperwork.  If you get court papers to fill out, make sure you do it and do it carefully.  Keep copies of everything.

How does a creditor get a warrant for my arrest? +

Step 1:  The creditor or collection agency gets a money judgment against you from court. There are steps they have to follow before they can get a judgment.  Read our Fact Sheet Your Debt Collection Rights.   


Step 2The creditor later sends you papers called a Financial Disclosure Form.  You must fill out the papers and return them to the creditor within 10 days of getting them. 


Step 3If you do not complete the papers and return them to the creditor, the creditor can get a court order called an “Order to Show Cause”.  This court order says you have to fill out the form OR appear in court in person to explain why you have not filled out the form.  The order will give a date and time that you have to go to court.  


Step 4If you don’t show up for the court hearing OR complete the Financial Disclosure Form and send it to the creditor, the court can issue an order saying you are in contempt of court for violating the order. 


Step 5An arrest warrant is issued based on the contempt of court order.  Police can arrest you and put you in jail.

Can I find out if there is a warrant out for me? +

It can be hard to know if there is an arrest warrant for you for contempt of court in a civil debt case.  There are 2 ways you can try to find out.


You can call your county Sheriff office.  Ask for the warrants division.  They should be able to tell you on the phone if there is a warrant out for you.



You can also check the Minnesota Court’s websiteGo to: 


  1. Click on Access Case Records (on top menu). 


  1. Towards the middle of the page there is a box with terms and conditions that you need to read.  If you accept the terms, click on “I Accept the Above Terms & Conditionsunder the box 


  1. You can leave “location” set at All MNCIS sites. Click on Civil, Family & Probate Case RecordsYou should also check under Judgments Search.  For the first one, choose “party” in the “search by” drop-down box at the top so you can enter your name.   


  1. If there are cases listed, click into each case to see if there is an order for a warrant.  


NOTE: If your name is not in these records, there might still be a very recent judgment against you that has not yet been entered with the court.  


If there is a warrant because you have not done a Financial Disclosure Form, call the court that issued the warrant. It is usually your local county court. Tell the clerk that you need to do a financial disclosure form. They might be able to send you one.


There is one at the end of this fact sheet. You can also find it online at Click on Get Forms, click on Judgment Enforcement, click on Disclosure, click on Financial Disclosure.


Fill out the form, and make a copy. Send one copy to the judgement creditor (who you owe the money to) and keep the other for yourself. In a day or two, call the court to make sure the warrant is cancelled.

What happens if I get arrested? +

It is different from county to county.  Try asking at the jail for a copy of the Financial Disclosure Form.  There is a copy attached to this fact sheet or you can get one online at Click on Get Forms, click on Judgment Enforcement, click on Disclosure, click on Financial Disclosure   


Fill it out and ask if you can be let out of jail.  It is up to the judge to decide if this is enough to get you released.

Attached Form +

Financial Disclosure Form (form is on pages 3 and 4)


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