How to Ask the Court to Stop or Reduce a Bank Levy
Disclaimer: This guide is intended as general information only. Your case may have factors requiring different procedures or forms. The information and instructions are provided for use in the Sacramento County Superior Court. Please keep in mind that each court may have different requirements. If you need further assistance, consult a lawyer.
This packet includes:
Click here to download a pdf version of this guide.
One of the
common methods used by creditors to collect on court judgments is to levy bank
accounts in the debtor’s name. In order to do this, the creditor will request
that the court issue a Writ of Execution (EJ-130),
which is a court order directing the sheriff of a particular county, to enforce
the judgment. The creditor then takes the writ to the sheriff of the
appropriate county along with instructions to levy the accounts or safe deposit
boxes in the debtor’s name at a particular bank. If this happens in a case in
which there is a judgment against you, you will be mailed a Notice of Levy (EJ-150), along with some
additional informational documents.
receiving the order to levy, the bank will typically freeze the funds in the
affected account, up to the amount of levy, or the Sheriff will hold onto those
funds for a period of ten days before forwarding the funds or property to the
creditor. This delay is to give you the opportunity to seek to stop or reduce
the levy by filing a Claim of Exemption (EJ-160).
may order some or all of an account exempt if:
source of the money in the account is from a source that is exempt by statute
(law), such as Social Security benefits; or
money in the account is required for the basic necessities of life.
mind that even if the court orders the account exempt from collection, the
judgment still exists, and will continue to accrue 10% simple interest each
One of the
forms that you should receive with your Notice
of Levy (EJ-150) is Exemptions from the Enforcement of Judgments (EJ-155). This form lists the
various asset types that may be exempt from collection. An
adaptation of this document, with hyperlinks to the applicable code sections,
is available on the Law Library’s website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/exemptions.aspx. It is very important to
read and understand the specific exemption(s) that may apply to you, because
not all of these exemptions are complete (for example, employment wages are
only 75% exempt), and some have limits on the amount of the exemption.
IMPORTANT: Remember, once you receive these documents you have 10 days in which to file your Claim of Exemption and Declaration with the Sheriff's department listed on the Notice of Levy.
Step 1: Completing the Claim of Exemption (EJ-160)
the Claim of Exemption (EJ-160). To
access these California state-wide Judicial Council forms online, go to www.courts.ca.gov/forms. Choose “Enforcement of Judgment,” and
click on the “See Forms” button. Select your form by number (for example, EJ-160).
Forms may be saved to your computer and printed when you are ready. Click here to download a pdf version of this guide with sample instructions.
Step 2:Completing the Financial Statement (WG-007/EJ-165)
If you are
claiming that some, or all, of the amount levied should be withheld because it
is necessary for the basic necessities of life, you will need to complete and
attach a Financial Statement (WG-007/EJ-165). The Statement
provides the court with a snapshot of your monthly income and expenses.
general rule, entertainment (line 4(l)) and most installment payments (line
4(j) and section 5) are not typically considered “basic necessities of life,”
and such amounts will typically be ordered paid to the creditor. Exceptions are
installments being paid to prior judgment debtors, installments being paid to
the government for back taxes, or other debts that are legally entitled to
priority over the judgment in this case. Click here to download a pdf version of this guide with sample instructions.
Step 3: Completing the Declaration (MC-030)
income you are claiming is statutorily exempt (i.e., it is one of the types of income listed on Exemption from the
Enforcement of Judgments (EJ-155), you will need to provide a
declaration proving the source of the money being levied is from an exempt
source. If you are claiming that the exemption is based upon the funds being
required for the basic necessities of life, you may use a declaration to supplement
your Financial Statement (WG-007/EJ-165).
Your declaration should provide a
detailed description of why any funds are exempt from collection. You will also
need to attach two or three months of bank statements to show the source of any
money that goes into the bank account. Your declaration must “trace” each deposit
from the source of the funds to the bank account. The amount of the funds that
can be traced back to exempt sources (Social Security, SSI, etc.) will be
exempt, up to the amount allowed for each exemption. Keep in mind that this is
being read by a sheriff, creditor, and possibly by a judge who has no prior
knowledge of your circumstances, so be sure to explain things concisely and
with sufficient detail. If you are attaching bank statements, be sure to
“redact” (black out so they cannot be read) the account numbers on any bank
statements you might attach, as this document might eventually end up filed
with the court.Click here to download a pdf version of this guide with sample instructions.
Step 4:Copying and Assembling
copies of each:
- Claim of Exemption (EJ-160)
- Financial Statement, if applicable (WG-007/EJ-165)
(Attach to Claim of Exemption (EJ-160))
- Declaration (MC-030)
completed documents to the Sheriff’s Department, as listed on the Notice of Levy (EJ-150). The Sheriff
will mail one copy to the judgment creditor and keep the second. The third copy
is for you to keep for your records.
Step 5: What Happens Next?
Sheriff, or levying officer, will hold on to the money or property until
either: 1) 10 days go by and the creditor does not oppose your claim of
exemption; or 2) the judge makes a decision on the claim of exemption. If the
creditor does not oppose your claim of exemption, the Sheriff or levying
officer will return the money or property to your bank account.
If the creditor opposes your claim of exemption, you will
receive a Notice of
Opposition to Claim of Exemption (EJ-170) and Notice of Hearing on Claim of
Exemption (EJ-175) that will set a court date for a judge to make a
decision, probably within the month. If the judge agrees with your claim of
exemption, you will get your money or property back. If the judge agrees
with the creditor, the Sheriff or levying officer will send the money or
property to the judgment creditor.
The court reviews all oppositions
to claims of exemptions and makesa
Tentative Ruling on whether to allow a claim the day before the scheduled hearing.
These Tentative Rulings are posted and available for
viewing after 2:00 p.m. on the day before the scheduled hearing. The
tentative ruling will become the final ruling on the matter, unless either
party asks for the hearing to be held. If you would like the judge to hear oral
arguments on the matter, you must notify the other party, the other party's
attorney, and the department clerk of your intent to appear at the hearing no
later than 4 p.m. the day before the scheduled hearing.
you do not give this notice, your hearing will be taken off the schedule. The
tentative ruling will become the final ruling of the court. For more information, see the Legal Research Guide on the Court’s Tentative Ruling System and how to view the
tentative rulings on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/tentative-rulings.aspx.
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS GUIDE, OR IF YOU NEED HELP FINDING OR USING THE MATERIALS LISTED, DON'T HESITATE TO ASK A REFERENCE LIBRARIAN.