The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is an important law that grants special protections to those with active military status. The SCRA’s rules are sometimes confusing. This results in some people who do business with members of the military inadvertently violating the SCRA. Violations can result in steep fines, imprisonment or both.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Doesn’t Grant Total Immunity
A common misconception is that servicemembers with active military status can’t be taken to civil court. The SCRA’s intent is to ensure that active-duty servicemembers don’t face penalties due to their inability to attend court dates. However, this does not mean that they are immune to civil liability for the duration of their service.
Active-duty servicemembers can ask a judge for an automatic 90-day delay when they face civil actions. This is called a “stay” of proceedings. If requested, the judge will usually grant it.
After this period, however, further stays are only granted at the discretion of the court. Judges consider various factors when deciding whether to grant additional stays. These include the urgency of the issue and the logistics of appearing in court. Child custody cases, for example, are usually considered urgent, while petty debts might not be.
The SCRA Applies Stateside, Too
Another common misconception is that SCRA protections take effect upon deployment. In fact, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act has nothing substantial to do with deployment, with the exception of logistical considerations mentioned above.
The SCRA takes effect upon a servicemember’s going on active military status, regardless of where they are in the world.
There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, there are servicemembers and professionals who deal with them — like landlords — who think that because the servicemember is in America, the SCRA doesn’t apply. But a landlord who attempts to evict an active-duty servicemember living in the U.S. could face criminal charges and fines.
On the other hand is the question of debt limitations for active duty servicemembers.
Many limitations on the interest lenders can charge servicemembers apply only to debts taken out before they had active military status. If a servicemember were to purchase a vehicle at a higher interest rate before going on active duty, the lender would have to amend the rate to 6 percent. If they made the same purchase after going on active duty, however, the interest rate would stand, although other laws may come into play, such as the Military Lending Act.
Know the Law: Get Military Status Verifications
It is important for those who work with servicemembers to be aware of the specifics of this law to avoid civil and criminal liabilities.
Regularly performing military records searches is the best way to ensure compliance with the SCRA. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service is here to make the process affordable and easy.