How to Collect a Small Claims Judgment
Collecting Your Money or Personal Property

No one can substitute for a lawyer when legal procedures are involved. The small claims departments in Idaho, however, are designed to be used by persons without a lawyer to give people a place to get a quick settlement of minor disputes. But winning your small claims suit before the judge may be just the first step in getting your money or recovering your personal property. While the courts cannot act as a collection agency for you, you can use the court's process as part of your efforts to collect the money or personal preoperty that is owed to you.

When the Judge Decides in Your Favor

If the judge decides in your favor, the judge will order the person you sued to pay the money or return the personal property that is owed to you. The judge's order in your case is called a "judgment."

If the court has awarded a judgment in your favor, as a next step you should ask the defendant to pay you or return your personal property immediately. If the defendant isn't present, you should let the defendant know that a judgment has been awarded and ask the defendant to do what the judgment requires. In most cases, the defendant will agree to do what is ordered in the judgment.

If the Defendant Refuses to Comply

If the defendant refuses to pay you the money or return the personal property ordered by the judgment, then formal collection proceedings are available to you after the time for appeal has passed (30 days from the entry of judgment), unless the defendant has not appeared in court to contest you claim--in which case formal collection is available immediately. If the defendant contests your claim and appeals the judgment, you can't collect until the appeal is decided. To begin formal collection, the first thing to do is to fill out a form called a "write of execution." This form may be purchased from a stationery story, or in some areas of the state, you may obtain it from the court clerk.

The minimum number of copies of a writ of execution is two. These are "issued," or signed by the court clerk. The write of execution orders the sheriff to collect the money owed to you out of any property or wages of the defendant which are not execmpt. (If you are seeking the money from the defendant's wages, additional forms are required and the procedures are so technical that you should seek professional help from an attorney.) If you have sued for the return of personal property, the writ of execution will order the sheriff to seize the property involved and arrange its return to you.

You must then deliver both the original and two copies of the writ of execution to the sheriff and, at the same time, instruct the sheriff in writing (a letter to the sheriff usually is enough) indicating what property belonging to the defendant is available to be seized or taken for the money owed to you or where the personal property to be returned to you is located. You must list the specific property or wages. At the time you deliver the writ of execution and letter to the sheriff, be sure to ask about fees and costs.

If the sheriff is unable to find sufficient property of the defendant to pay your judgment and if later you learn that the defendant has additional property or money, you may obtain another writ of execution.

If You Need Help

The judges and sheriffs are not allowed to involve themselves in collection matters. You must personally conduct your own research to determine the location of property, wages, or money the defendant might have which is available to be seized or taken. Then you must obtain and fill out your own forms and do all things necessary for collection. If you have any questions, it is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney. If you wish, you may retain the services of a lawyer to handle these post-judgment matters for you. This collection procedure is technical and, if conducted improperly, you may be liable for resulting damages.