Once a judge awards judgment to a creditor, it is up to the judgment creditor to collect on that debt. Some common ways to do this involve garnishing wages or levying a bank account. The creditor can also file a personal property levy. In situations like this, high-value personal items like a car or truck can service the debt.
How a personal property levy works
A personal property levy is different than a lien, which is a legal claim against property to satisfy a debt. Instead, the levy is legal authorization to seize property to satisfy a debt. Those interested in properly creating a levy must go through a step-by-step process:
- Fill out a Writ of Execution in the county where the vehicle is, which is often the debtor’s home.
- File the original Writ of Execution with the Sheriff’s Office and get additional copies. Different counties will have different forms. Rather than using a process server, the Sheriff’s Office executes the levy because of the higher risk of conflict. The execution includes towing, storage and selling the vehicle in a public auction.
- File the Sheriff’s Instructions, which includes as much detail as possible about the vehicle and its likely location. The creditor must deposit fees to execute the levy and store the vehicle.
- If the vehicle is located on private property, the creditor must also file a seizure order with the county court that authorizes the sheriff to enter private property to assume possession of the debtor’s vehicle.
- The sheriff follows the instructions. He or she also serves the debtor with a copy of the notice of levy, writ of execution, and related documents.
- Once the vehicle is in possession of the sheriff’s department, the creditor can have the vehicle sold and collect the proceeds, or the creditor can have the vehicle delivered into their possession.
Knowledgeable guidance is often necessary
Those contemplating filing a personal property levy involving vehicles or other valuable possessions often get the best results by consulting with an experienced collections attorney who practices here in California. These legal professionals can provide guidance for effective leverage to recover a judgment’s award quickly.