November 13, 2019
Seeing your name as the subject of a warrant in debt is enough to make any business owner’s heart stop. While warrants are typically precursors to an arrest, search, or seizure in the criminal justice system, Virginia is one of a handful of states that still utilize “warrants” in a civil context.
If you received a document titled “warrant in debt,” which is an outdated legal phrase loosely translating to “demand to secure money owed,” you’ve been sued in Virginia General District Court (GDC) to recover on an outstanding financial obligation. It means the plaintiff is claiming that you or your business owes him or her money. A warrant in debt serves as an expedited motion for judgment in Virginia and acts as (1) a summons appear before the appropriate GDC on the date listed to dispute the claim and/or (2) notice that if you do not appear, formal judgment may be entered against you in the amount claimed.
But what does this mean for you and your business? What should you do to dispute a claim, and what are the legal consequences if a judgment is entered against you? The experienced Virginia business consumer attorneys at McClanahan Powers, PLLC can answer all these questions and more.
Virginia Code § 16.1-79 authorizes creditors to file a warrant in debt in the debtor’s local General District Court, which is a lower-level court in the Commonwealth. The warrant is presented to either the sheriff or authorized process server for delivery to the alleged debtor. A warrant in debt should contain the following information about the claim:
It’s common to not recognize the name of the alleged creditor as many debts are sold and resold to third-party collection or consolidation agencies. Plaintiffs must include the amount of the original debt so you’ll understand for which obligation you’re being sued, and many plaintiffs will include additional information to help you identify the origin of the obligation. Any payments you made towards the outstanding obligation will be considered and subtracted from the amount claimed before judgment is entered.
Most warrants in debt are filed when previous collection attempts have failed. As such, many defendants are familiar with the nature of the obligation before receiving a warrant in debt. Defendants are not legally obligated to take any action on a warrant in debt in Virginia, but failure to do so can have dire consequences. You have the following options after you’re served with a warrant in debt:
Virginia is an extremely creditor friendly state, which is why we never recommend ignoring a warrant in debt. While debtors still have rights under applicable consumer protection laws and may claim a homestead exemption to protect a residence, your rights greatly diminish once a judgment is entered.
Warrants in debt require a quick response and a strong defense in Virginia, both of which we offer at McClanahan Powers, PLLC. Our qualified Virginia business debt protection attorneys can review the facts of your case, appear on your behalf, request dismissal, negotiate with the plaintiff, defend your rights at trial, and even assist you with bankruptcy proceedings. Ignoring or failing to present the admissible evidence necessary to defend against a warrant in debt may mean paying more than you owe in principle, interest, costs, and attorneys fees and risking garnishment and property seizure. Don’t delay. Speak with a Virginia debtor’s attorney at McClanahan Powers, PLLC today by calling (703) 520-1326 or contacting us online.