If a creditor sues you and gets a judgment against you, it can take certain items of your personal property in order to get paid. This is called a property levy. The judgment creditor must first get a “writ of execution” from the court before it can instruct the sheriff or marshal to “levy” on it. (For more on what happens when a creditor sues you, see Creditor Lawsuits: How the Case Begins.)
It’s important to understand that only a judgment creditor can levy your property. If a creditor doesn't have a judgment against you, it can't levy your property. (If the property secured a debt, however, it might be able to repossess the property without a judgment. To learn more, see Repossession: What Creditors Can and Can't Take.)
“Levy” basically means that the officer takes the property (your baseball card collection, for example) or instructs the holder of the property (your bank, for example) to turn it over to the officer. After taking your property, the sheriff or marshal sells it at public auction and applies the proceeds to your debt.
In the case of a bank account levy, the amount taken from your account is applied to your debt. You must be notified any time the sheriff or marshal levies against your property. You can request a hearing to show that the property is exempt or that the seizure will cause you financial hardship.
Generally, here are the steps in the levying process:
(To learn about other ways judgment creditors can collect from you, see How Creditors Enforce Judgments.)
If you need information about levies in general or how to object to a levy, consider talking to a lawyer.