Maryland House Votes to End Debtors' Prisons

Advocate Andy

Consumer group applauds move that protects citizens facing collection actions

The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) applauded an overwhelming vote in the Maryland House of Delegates in favor of legislation (HB 349) that ends the practice of issuing an arrest warrant for individuals who fail to appear in small claims court in collection actions. 101 members of the House of Delegates voted in favor of the legislation, sponsored by Delegate David Moon.

MCRC said the move was a positive step for Maryland consumers:

This overwhelming support to end debtors’ prisons is a huge step forward for Maryland. Passage of the legislation would end the practice of Maryland residents being arrested, and often jailed because of a small consumer debt.

Delegate Moon tweeted after the vote:

The Maryland House voted 101-24 to stop jailing people for debt under $5000 in small claims court. Currently, creditors can put a lien on your BODY & a MoCo woman was arrested over an HOA fee dispute.

The Senate companion bill (SB 452) has received a committee hearing but has not yet advanced out of committee.

In explaining his support for the bill, Moon pointed to the story of a Montgomery County, Maryland woman who was arrested over failure to pay HOA fees.

The MCRC explained the reason the change in law is needed:

Several hundred body attachments — the term for an arrest warrant for an individual who fails to appear in court — are issued each year and about 20% of all debt collection cases result in an arrest.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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