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Poor Debtors

debt, debtor, usually and imprisonment

POOR DEBTORS. By the constitution of the several states and territories, or by the laws which exist for the relief of poor debt ors, it is provided in general terms that there shall be no imprisonment for debt. But this is usually qualified by provisions for the arrest of debtors in certain enumerated cases of fraud. The statutes in the different states are very similar, and as a rule, re quire the creditor to make affidavit that the debtor is about to remove some of his prop erty out of the jurisdiction of the court with intent to defraud his creditors, or that, for the same reason, he is about to dispose or has disposed of his property, or that he is fraudulently concealing it ; or that the debt, concerning which suit is brought, was fraud ulently contracted. Such in general is the law in most of the states and territories.

Imprisonment for debt has been generally prohibited by constitutional provision. In some states it is conditioned upon the debtor delivering up his property for the benefit of his creditors. It was substantially abolish ed in England in 1869.

It may be stated generally that the object of such statutes is to induce the defendant to pay the debt, give security, or take advan tage of the insolvent laws or of some enact ments made especially for the relief of poor debtors. It follows therefore that in most

of the states a person under arrest for debt may obtain his release in any of these ways. A poor debtor is usually compelled to resort to one of the two last mentioned, and, al though the proceedings differ in the different states, yet as a rule he is released upon de livering his property to a trustee, or taking oath that he has not more than ten or twen ty dollars above the amount exempted by statute in the particular state in which he is confined.

Statutes authorizing imprisonment of one who obtains food and lodging without pay ing thbrefor, with intent to defraud, are con stitutional ; Ex parte Milecke, 52 Wash. 312, 100 Pac. 743, 21 L. R. A. (N. S.) 259, 132 Am. St. Rep. 968; Ex parte King, 102 Ala. 182, 15 South. 524 ; State v. Yardley, 95 Tenn. 546, 32 S. W. 481, 34 L. R. A. 656. They are usually held to impose the penalty, not because of or for the purpose of collect ing the debt, but because of the fraud; State v. Benson, 28 Minn. 424, 10 N. W. 471; State v. Yardley, 95 Tenn. 546, 32 S. W. 481, 34 L. R. A. 656 ; State v. Engle, 156 Ind. 339, 58 N. E. 698.