FTC To Take A Closer Look At Debtors Being Thrown In Jail

It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors prisons have been abolished — but that doesn’t mean that people are not being routinely arrested and put in jail for failing to pay debts. A few weeks ago the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published an investigative piece about arrest warrants being issued for people with less than $100 in debt, many of whom didn’t even know that a collector had taken legal action against them. Now, following a letter by Sen. Al Franken (noted hater of the Comcast, NBC merger), the FTC has agreed to look into the issue.

“We’re trying to identify what the practices are, under what conditions people who may have consumer debt collection claims against them may be jailed, and whether such practices are in conformity with federal law,” said Julie Bush, a staff attorney in the FTC’s division of financial practices. She said the inquiry was not a formal investigation.

Here’s the original article.

FTC to probe courts’ jailing of debtors [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Al Franken] (Thanks, David!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dolemite says:

    Ok, Al Franken for president. Sorry Obama.

    • LightningUsagi says:

      With Ben Stein as his running mate. Franken/Stein 2012!!!!

      • Humward says:

        That’s funny wordplay — but Ben Stein is a nutjob.

        • Gaz says:

          Have you listened to Franken? They’d be peas in a nutty pod.

          • wrongfrequently says:

            for example??? (on Franken since I’ve heard plenty of Stein)

          • Humward says:

            Well, Franken’s a standard politician — not everyone’s going to agree with him, but what he says is at least on this planet.

            Stein, though, is just nuts. It’s not (just) that he’s radically conservative — it’s that he’s as wacky as a weed-eater. I don’t want to hijack the thread, so Google “Ben Stein Evolution” for a few examples. (And that’s also the last I can say on this for the same reason — I’m getting too far off-topic.)

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Because… hating the NBC/Comcast merger on the grounds that they’ll likely just start blocking other cable providers from carrying their content and lambasting Blackwater for *defending rape* are both… crazy things?

          • BStu78 says:

            Franken is a policy wonk. The type of which we frankly need more of. There isn’t anything especially “nutty” about his political views. His political opponents just like making him out to be an extremist because that serves their agenda.

            Stein spent most of his career as a fairly mainline conservative economist albeit with a few bits of maverickism (most notably his strong and principled support for tax increases on the wealthy). As of late, however, he’s veered wildly into offensive rhetoric by likening atheists to Nazi’s. I wouldn’t have called Stein nutty 5 years ago. Just someone I largely disagreed with. His recent religious attacks, though, are beyond the pale.

      • Mecharine says:

        Im pretty sure Al Franken would kill Stein if he ever saw him.

      • magus_melchior says:

        Uh, no. That’s Lincoln/Johnson all over again.

    • cloudedknife says:

      okay, but the man needs autotune or a vocorder badly. Can’t stand his voice, as much as I do like alot of his politics.

    • huadpe says:
    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      He seems to be the Senator that really cares about the consumer. I’d vote for him.

    • Riroon13 says:

      He’s got at least be tapped for head of the FTC or some other Fed dept that looks out for consumer affairs. Seriously.

      (I’d love to see the look on a CEO’s face if they get a knock on the door…”Um, excuse me. My name is Al Franken and this is my partner Michael Moore. We’re from the Federal government and we have a few questions to ask…)

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Yeah, I was hoping it wasn’t just me who is utter awe of his stamina-perfect example of a good replacement for old incumbents that have camped out in their positions for far too long. Franken doesn’t have the political jade, and he quickly established himself as someone who wasn’t going to be sidelined as a joke.

    • Difdi says:

      Hey, it worked alright with Reagan. Ought to work again.

  2. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Well, I was actually served court papers at my place of employment. I’m guessing if I didn’t show up, I would have had a warrant out for my arrest.
    But I did go to court. All the did was verify my name and address and asked if I owed the money. The end.
    Still never paid it. It’s finally off my credit report since it’s been 7 years.

    It was for $1100 owed to Chase Manhattan.

    • DanRydell says:


    • MrEvil says:

      For civil matters there should never be an arrest warrant issued for failure to appear. Failing to appear just gets a default judgement put against you. Maybe the collections agencies are calling the local PD and accusing the debtor of something that can get someone arrested. I guess the judge in the court could have you held in contempt but there are even limits to that.

      Not only is being imprisoned for owing a debt against federal law, if I am not mistaken its also in the freaking Constitution. I once had a lawyer tell me that if you can’t pay a traffic fine and the court orders you to sleep it off in jail you can petition the court for your release on constitutional grounds as a fine is a debt owed to the government and you cannot be jailed for owing money. That’s assuming you’re willing to pay the fine but don’t have the money.

      • stevejust says:

        Interesting take. I almost started to agree with you, but I suspect that the rationale on behalf of the judge’s issuing the warrants is that by not showing up, they’re in contempt of court.

        Think about a subponea situation — If someone issues a subponea for a personal appearance, it doesn’t matter that it’s civil court or what the reason is, even a third party that ignores a subponea could conceivably be arrested if they ignore it.

        I think that’s what’s going on here. Equating that with getting thrown in jail because of debt is plain incorrect. They’re getting thrown in jail for not appearing. If they appeared, they wouldn’t be thrown in jail over the debt.

        While you can not appear and accept a default judgment latter in response to a civil suit, I’m sure what is triggering these arrests is a subponea for personal appearance/and or inspection of documents that is coming on the heels of a default judgment. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic in the legal system.

        The intersting case is the person who claims never to have been served with any papers in the first place. Assuming they truley had no notice, that arrest is grossly unconstitutional.

        • mythago says:

          The last paragraph is the problem. If you’re a debt collector, getting somebody jailed is a very good way to pressure them to pay you – whether or not they really owe the debt, or the whole debt. If they want to complain they weren’t served, well, they can do so after they make bail.

          • Difdi says:

            Right, and judges have this annoying tendency to award the posted bail to the debt collector, rather than returning it after the debtor appears in court. This strikes me as a nasty way for a debt collector to get around a disputed debt, just “forget” to tell the court that it’s in dispute…

            • oldwiz65 says:

              All of this shows that the courts and police will do whatever they d*** well please and whatever they are bribed to do. One wonders how much of a commission the judges get from the bill collectors for setting the bail at the amount owed? 10%? 20%?

              History has always shown that the courts and police can be subverted by money; it’s just a question of how much money and how blatant the subversion is. Trusting either the courts or the police to protect you is not a bright idea.

      • keeblerelf says:

        It has nothing to do with not showing up for the initial summons and complaint.

        This only happens after a debtor gets served with a lawsuit and for whatever reason, loses that lawsuit. A judgment issues, which is mailed to the Defendant. The defendant may get served AGAIN with post-judgment discovery. If they refuse to comply with that, the judgment-creditor may file a motion to compel, which the debtor is AGAIN served with. At the hearing on the motion to compel, the judge may order them to comply, and that order will AGAIN be served on the debtor. If after all of this, the debtor fails to respond, the judgment-creditor may file a motion to have them held in contempt. This motion is AGAIN served on them with notice of a court date. If they fail to appear for this court date, they may have a warrant issued against them.

        Contrast this with the process of getting a traffic ticket. If you get pulled over for speeding and you fail to either pay the fine or show up for court, you WILL get a warrant issued for your arrest, and there won’t be any second chances to ensure that it wasn’t an honest mistake.

        As with most reporting on debt collection lately, this was a hatchet job.

  3. pop top says:

    The link is off. It’s sending me to a link to print the story.

    • Difdi says:

      I don’t know if this works for other browsers, but in Firefox just open the link in a new tab, and click cancel on the print window. You can then read it normally.

  4. peebozi says:

    A true free market would allow the private parties to agree to jailing for failure to pay the debt. In fact, the corporations could try to scrounge together some coin to build them and not use criminal prisons provided by the socialist state.

    They could also enter into an agreement that the debtor, while jailed, would need to reimburse the corporation for expenses incurred (exorbitantly marked up to ensure the debtor will never be able to pay it back) while incarcerated effectively. For a debtor to manage his risk better he could enter into an agreement with his wife (or any person down on their luck) to provide sexual services to the creditor until the debt is paid off. Prostitution and indentured servitude are legal in a true free market economy.

    This is a true free market system.

    • SuperSnackTime says:


      • peebozi says:

        I said –

        “A true free market would allow the private parties to agree to jailing for failure to pay the debt. In fact, the corporations could try to scrounge together some coin to build them and not use criminal prisons provided by the socialist state.

        They could also enter into an agreement that the debtor, while jailed, would need to reimburse the corporation for expenses incurred (exorbitantly marked up to ensure the debtor will never be able to pay it back) while incarcerated effectively. For a debtor to manage his risk better he could enter into an agreement with his wife (or any person down on their luck) to provide sexual services to the creditor until the debt is paid off. Prostitution and indentured servitude are legal in a true free market economy.

        This is a true free market system.”

        You heard it! Just trying to extol the values of a free market economy.

        • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

          Unfortunately in a free market economy, you are either a “have” or a “have not” and are completely at the whim of the “haves”. That being the case, most folks who are todays champions of pure free markets would most likely be in some form of indentured servitude to the “ruling classes” and would likely not have the time, desire or resources to post to blogs supporting a system which enriches very few at the expense of the many.

          I am no socialist or communist, but I *do* understand the value of controls and regulation on large corporations who create de-facto monopolies and abuse our legal and governmental systems to their advantage and to the detriment of the general population.

          • Gaz says:

            Your understanding of economics is clear and impressive. Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

            You’re confusing a real free market system for the free market system that idiots like Sarah Palin talk about. A true free market system still has the government act as an arbiter to make sure transactions are transparent and open. The consequences you’re suggesting would be the result of having the worst parts of a free market with the worst parts of a nanny state. Corporations have no separate privilege or standing in a true free market.

            • peebozi says:

              Wrong. Once any form of regulation is in place an unlevel playing field is established.

              Corporations would still be able to be formed to limit liability of members by simply having all aprties agree to the terms…no government needed.

              I win.

              PS – Sarah Palin doesn’t know her ass from a hole in the wall so any comparison to her is an insult. :-)

              • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

                And who exactly enforces these agreements? Or is everything supposed to run on the honor system?

    • dangermike says:

      pardon me, your strawman is showing.

    • mommiest says:

      Free Market Feudalism. Who’d of thunk it?

    • Mecharine says:

      You need to put a /history next to that.

    • mythago says:

      A true free market would not have corporations, which are organizations given special government-enforced privileges, like being shielded from liability for the acts of their owners.

    • Darrone says:

      Please don’t feed the free market troll.

  5. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    I bet this makes the people in jail much happier knowing the FTC will get right on top of this issue. Mean while, more people are being thrown into jail….and how can big business dictate who is placed into jail…what ever happened to innocent until proven guilty. Don’t they need to be in front of a judge first…

    • peebozi says:

      big business now rights the rules. its one of the perks when you buy a politician.

    • DanRydell says:

      People often spend time in jail without being convicted of any crime. It’s where they take the accused who are waiting for trial and cannot make bail. Contempt of court is another way to get thrown in jail without being convicted of anything.

  6. ShruggingGalt says:

    Aren’t these arrests for contempt of court? (for not appearing in court or for a debtor’s examination?)

    For the latter you’ve always been able to do that…..(pretty sure)

    • erratapage says:

      Read the article. One of the problems is that the bail asked for is the amount of the debt, which moots the issue of collection. If the warrant is served on a Friday in a rural county in Minnesota, you could be in jail until Monday, which is far in excess of any judgement that would be owed.

    • mythago says:

      Right, but if the contempt is issued because the debtor wasn’t properly served and wasn’t given a chance to rectify their error, it’s abusive. Throwing people in jail for contempt is an absolute last resort. It’s being pushed by debt collectors because it’s a very high-pressure means of squeezing money out of people.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        You can’t get blood out of a stone, though. If they don’t have the money jailing them isn’t going to help, especially if it causes them to lose their job (from missing work if they can’t make bail). Then the situation will just be worse.

        • mythago says:

          But it’s a great way to squeeze money out of a) people who actually have it b) even if they don’t owe the money, or don’t owe as much as the debt collector claims. Jail is very coercive.

  7. AngryK9 says:

    I remember reading something about this somewhere. Debt collectors were initiating legal proceedings against people who owe money, but were failing (assumed intentionally) to notify the person that they were being sued. Then, when the court date came around, warrants were being issued because the person failed to appear in court. The next time the person was pulled over for speeding, or simply trying to renew their license or something, they were being locked up.

    • bhr says:

      Doesn’t work quite that way. If you don’t show up in court the collection agency or creditor will usually win a default judgment against you, which gives them everything they asked for. If you don’t show up for a debt review (or whatever the post-judgment hearing is called) then I believe they can get you for contempt.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        It does work that way. There was an article about it. It might even be (!) linked at the bottom of this very article!

        • bhr says:

          actually, maybe you should learn to read. This, from the article, explains the exact same thing I said.

          At 9:30 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, about a dozen people stood in line at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.

          Nearly all of them had received court judgments for not paying a delinquent debt. One by one, they stepped forward to fill out a two-page financial disclosure form that gives creditors the information they need to garnish money from their paychecks or bank accounts.

          This process happens several times a week in Hennepin County. Those who fail to appear can be held in contempt and an arrest warrant is issued if a collector seeks one. Arrested debtors aren’t officially charged with a crime, but their cases are heard in the same courtroom as drug users.

          • mythago says:

            Right – contempt of court, for failing to obey the court’s order to appear. Which can be a little tricky if you never got notice of the court order, say because a sleazy debt collector or process server lied about having given you proper notice.

    • dolemite says:

      I think you read about it on here!

  8. Riroon13 says:

    Tack this story onto the one I saw a few days ago, where now there is computer software that can automatically run supoenas and court docs for debt collectors, and produce all necessary paperwork to file claim. All they need to run the automated software is a name, address, and SS#… not account #’s or any information directly connected to the debt.

    So the debt collectors can collect your information automatically from a database (like creditmax), insert the info into this new software, and voila! Instant lawsuit without all that messy ‘prove the debt’/ ‘do we have the right guy?’ stuff.

    And for that, any of us can go to jail.

  9. savdavid says:

    Same thing here, NarcoleptiGirl…..I was served for a debt to CapitalOne, Didn’t go to court, a lien was put on my home (means if I ever sell it the creditor get his money). After seven years, the court order fell off all my credit reports and the city has dropped the lien. Just be patient if you can.

    • SlappyFrog says:

      Or, you know, pay the debt.

      What the hell? You can afford to own a house, you can afford to pay your debts.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        Sometimes credit card debt is the least of your concerns when, within a two year period, you get laid off, have two friends die, you have to sleep on your uncle’s floor because you got evicted from your apartment, your father becomes homeless due to legal issues, your aunt is sick with MS and can’t afford her bills and you need to help her, your car gets stolen and torched, you need to pay for $1400 of prescriptions a month, etc.

        Why didn’t I try to pay it off years later after everything calmed down?
        because I didn’t want to.

  10. mommiest says:

    I just can’t see this failing to create more problems than it solves. Stick a single parent in jail for a few days, he loses work time (and may his job), has to find care for his kids (or the county puts them in foster care), and he’ll either have additional court costs or the local authorities pick up the costs. It’s a lot of money and resources to collect a debt from someone already on the financial edge.

    • AjariBonten says:

      Yes, but the original debt collector doesn’t give a rats ass about ANY of that. Hell, they don’t even get their money from 90% of these cases; it’s just intimidation for the NEXT poor schlub to get arrested

      • Beeker26 says:

        No, they are almost guaranteed to get their money every single time because the amount of bail you are required to leave is exactly the same amount of what you owe (which in itself is borderline unethical). After you appear in court they petition to get the bail money and voila!, debt is paid. It’s a win-win for them every single time.

        Makes the Mafia look downright charitable.

    • Beeker26 says:

      Well the point is these are debt collections agencies that don’t give a shit if you’re a single parent with a kid to take care of. They just want your money. And this is a guaranteed way to get it. The whole thing is a travesty and someone needs to put a stop to it.

      There is a reason why we no longer have debtors prison. Someone should remind these judges. Maybe it’s time to start compiling a list of the judges who are signing off on these warrants and make sure they either lose their jobs or are never re-elected.

  11. tungstencoil says:

    “…Prostitution and indentured servitude are legal in a true free market economy.”

    Your whole rant is, indeed, a straw man argument. Indeed, as a rant against debtors’ prison OR a free market system, it’s fairly weak.


    You’re substituting the idea of, essentially, selling yourself into slavery as a true expression of a free market. Maybe in the widest, most expansive definition of the term it could be – but using it as an argument against debtors’ prison or a rational/realistic implementation of a free market (even a *very* free one) is just silly.

    Note: This is neither a commentary on debtors’ prison or free markets; it’s just an explanation of why I concur your argument is specious.

  12. Bob says:

    The only way I see this being 100% legal is if someone is personally served and willfully doesn’t show up for court at all. If you are not personally served with papers how then can it be legal? Did someone change the rules to allow secret court hearing to happen without the knowledge of the defendant? Is the debt collector committing perjury when they say they did contact the person about the court date and the court allows the perjured testimony of the debt collector? What in Sam Hill is going on? Why do I think the FTC will find this a serious problem, Congress will have Congressional Hearings, and neither will do nothing about it?

    • Difdi says:

      Typically, what would happen might be like this:

      1) Company demands money from alleged debtor; Debt may be fraudulent, debt may be real, debt may be in dispute, or the debt collector may not actually own the debt. Doesn’t matter.

      2) Alleged debtor does not pay. Maybe because of lack of funds, maybe because of being a deadbeat, maybe because the company failed to prove ownership of the debt, maybe it’s disputed. Doesn’t matter.

      3) Company goes to court and sues alleged debtor.

      4) Court requires that company serve summons paperwork on alleged debtor. Company cleverly serves papers at place of residence of alleged debtor as of 5+ years ago, even though they know the alleged debtor has moved.

      5) Naturally, alleged debtor fails to appear. Arrest warrant for contempt of court is issued.

      6) Alleged debtor is arrested & jailed, bail is set to the amount of the debt. Since contempt of court isn’t subject to habeas corpus, and lasts until the terms the judge who issued the warrant set are met (typically payment of debt), jailing could last a long time.

      7) If alleged debtor pays bail, judge orders bail payment be given to debt collector, and alleged debtor is released.

      8) Alleged debtor can, at his/her own expense appeal, but if they can’t afford to pay a debt, they can’t afford an appeal either.

      9) Company wins.

      And that’s how a sleazy debt collector can use a court to forcibly collect on a debt directly, without needing a lien or for the accused to ever be able to appear in court at all.

  13. tungstencoil says:

    Debtor’s prison is – and should be – illegal.

    Using a work-around as a threat should, likewise, be illegal.

    I find myself, in spite of not agreeing with Franken’s overall political view, finding his stance on these consumer-related issues refreshing.

  14. Big Mama Pain says:

    How about if the debt was from a bounced check? That’s a criminal offense, and whereas a lot of smaller businesses take the hit and keep tabs on people that write hot checks, larger businesses have the wherewithal to send it upstream. This happened when I wrote a check out to cash to my own workplace (major bookstore), not realizing I didn’t have the funds to cover; I got a phone call the next day from a third party agency. I paid them on the spot, but who knows what would have happened if I didn’t/couldn’t.

    • Difdi says:

      Whether you pay the debt or not, writing a bad check is a crime. In other words, if a company calls you up, and offers not to call the police and have you arrested for bad checks, if you pay them an amount of money, is committing blackmail/extortion against you. And even if you do pay, you’re still on the hook for criminal charges if the government ever notices.

  15. tournant says:

    Where’s the option where I sit in jail for a week and, hey, no more student loan debt!? :D

  16. slim150 says:

    I think part of a bankrupt hearing should be to determine if you went bankrupt egregiously. If it was determined you went bankrupt with cause (i/e not a failed restaurant or something) then you should also get charged with a low class felony.

    This felony would require no jail time, but would hurt you if you had a criminal record / are on parole. AND would force you to mark that you have been convicted of a felony on your job application (and would show up on a background check)

    • tungstencoil says:

      Just out of curiosity… how would ‘society’ be served by this? I’ll respectfully disagree with you.

      I’m all about personal responsibility, but I’m also all about corporate responsibility. Google some studies around human behavior & debt – they’re pretty much shown the majority of people aren’t capable of making completely rational decisions about credit and debt. Note: this doesn’t mean they can be educated out of it or that people are ‘stupid’.

      The lenders play to this, enticing people into cycles of debt. A certain number of those people will fail to repay. The lenders – just like the borrowers – have a part in this. No absolution of personal responsibility here, but the lenders don’t get a pass to say, “What? Us? We just lent it to them!” Shall we imprison lenders who give too much money to someone in, say, a ‘volatile’ employment industry because they might get laid off?

      In addition, the lenders structure their debt/lending to mitigate this risk. This is why there are different interest rates, and also one of the reasons why interest rates are different, fluctuate, etc. No, it’s not the only reason, but part of the risk is spread to less risky borrowers.

      Sorry, the whole “it should be a felony” to have an ‘unwarranted’ bankruptcy just doesn’t stand up to any degree of scrutiny.

    • varro says:

      Bankruptcy is a civil remedy for debt, and there are specific reasons for nondischargeability of debts.

      What you suggest is using the criminal law system to punish breaches of contract and subsequent bankruptcy, which is just like debtors’ prison – using the criminal law to punish unpaid debts.

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        I agree. It’s a really bad idea. I don’t even think you can get civil punitive damages for breach of contract let alone criminal punishment.

    • Mina_da_mad_child says:

      Also, you will bar the person from most high paying jobs meaning that they will be stuck in a cycle of poverty and possibly become / stay a burden on society. You’re reasoning is based on the misguided notion that something like this will never happen to you, while economic hardship is closer than most realize.

    • Lightman says:

      The right to chapter eleven bankruptcy is what has kept entrepreneurship stronger in the US than in Europe – adding criminal punishments for debt will just make us further economically uncompetitive.

  17. sth9669 says:

    Awww man, no shout out for the guy (or one of them) who sent in the tip? Well, either way, good article and scary thought about debt collectors having you arrested. . .

  18. JonBoy470 says:

    So apparently, in Minnesota, if you are sued, and don’t show up for court, the judge can hold you in contempt and issue a warrant for your arrest. And given collection agencies’ tendency to be less than diligent in insuring the lawsuits they file are properly served, it seems like a perfect way to abuse the court and law enforcement systems to collect your money, while shifting the costs of such collection to the taxpayers as an added bonus!

    I’m not generally a big fan of Al Franken, but any action to smack down the abusive and unethical behavior of shady debt collectors is fine by me.

  19. JonBoy470 says:

    So apparently, in Minnesota, if you are sued, and don’t show up for court, the judge can hold you in contempt and issue a warrant for your arrest. And given collection agencies’ tendency to be less than diligent in insuring the lawsuits they file are properly served, it seems like a perfect way to abuse the court and law enforcement systems to collect your money, while shifting the costs of such collection to the taxpayers as an added bonus!

    I’m not generally a big fan of Al Franken, but any action to smack down the abusive and unethical behavior of shady debt collectors is fine by me.

  20. VicMatson says:

    Well then, we need disclaimers in big bold letters saying “Failure to pay can result in jail time”.

  21. keeblerelf says:

    More garbage journalism, misquoting people and generally trying to create a scandal out of a process that’s been in place for hundreds of years.

    These people are not being jailed for not paying their debt. They are being jailed because they refused to respond TO A COURT ORDER after a judgment issued against them, and they’ve been served for the second or third time with notice of what’s going on.

    This has always been the case for people who refuse to respond to a court order, whether you are someone’s ex-spouse after a divorce case or a corporate officer who fails to respond to questions about assets of the corporation, or a neighbor who got sued cause your dog bit someone. It’s the same procedure.

    Cry me a river. It’s one thing if you can’t pay your debts. It’s a whole ‘nother enchilada when you ignore a judge who’s ordered you to answer questions. You do that at your own peril.

  22. whatsfair says:

    Can the FTC now let me throw my Mortgage Lender in Jail – when they don’t pay my taxes out of my escrow acct? –

    So the sheriff can throw ME in Jail for not paying taxes – but I can’t have the Idiot Corporation Mortgage Lender thrown in Jail – for not paying those taxes.

    So Not Fair.

  23. JonBoy470 says:

    Really, to me the idea the jail time can be a possible consequence for a civil infraction is truly ludicrous. The purpose of jail is to remove people from society for a period of time when they have shown themselves to be a danger to society by being convicted of a crime.