In Texas, the family law court has the power to put someone in jail for failing to pay child support. This is generally accomplished through the contempt powers of the court when a child support order is contemptuously ignored by the parent who owes back child support. Recently, a judge in Corpus Christi ordered the incarceration of A.B. Quintanilla, who is the brother of the deceased singing superstar, Selena.
The defendant was a member of the band that played with Selena prior to her death in 1995, when the president of her fan club murdered her. The defendant reportedly owes more than $87,000 in child support for one child. The Texas Attorney General's Office reported that the last amount paid by the musician was $16.84 in Sept. 2015.
The defendant reportedly did not show up for an Aug. 4 support court appearance on the charges of nonpayment of child support. His attorney appeared on his behalf to say that his client had no knowledge about the court date. On the rescheduled date of Aug. 16, the judge told the defendant that she wanted him to "sit in jail" while he contemplated his responsibility as a father and the rights of his child.
On July 31, the Nueces County Sheriff's Office published its top 10 "most wanted" list, in which the defendant appeared due to his massive child support arrearages. Although it is arguably unconstitutional to incarcerate someone for owing money, it is allowed as part of a court order to punish contempt of court. However, most legal authority recognizes a limit on the length of time that a court may incarcerate a person under these circumstances.
The court can order such contempt violations more than once, thereby giving a continuing pressure point over the defendant, who presumably will become highly motivated to find the money to get the payments back in line. That is the reasoning behind the procedure and most reports on the subject indicate that it is successful in most situations. The Texas procedure used in this case is similar to the enforcement procedures that exist in other states.
Source: ksat.com, "Selena's brother A.B. Quintanilla arrested during child support hearing", Adrian Garcia, Aug. 16, 2017