Will I go to jail if I don't pay a civil judgment?

For an ordinary North Carolina civil money judgment, jailing of the debtor-defendant is not a remedy available to the plaintiff-creditor. A civil money judgment is a final order of the civil court determining that the defendant is responsible for compensating the plaintiff with a certain sum of money. In a debt collection lawsuit, the judgment is a determination that in the eyes of the law, the debt is actually owed.

If a debtor-defendant is either unable or unwilling to pay a judgment voluntarily, the plaintiff-creditor may use certain processes to attempt seize assets to pay the judgment. Subject to property exemptions, there are mechanisms for a creditor go after personal property as well as real estate. However, not paying the judgment is not in the eyes of the law wrongful, and debtor-defendants are not punished for non-payment, including not being jailed.

It's important to note that in rare cases debtor-defendants are jailed for contempt of court. This is a separate matter from not paying a debt. Contempt involves ignoring or disobeying a court order, and it is rare (but not impossible) that a civil money judgment would contain a direct court order that could be enforced with contempt powers.

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