Claim of Exemption – Bank Levy

Templates and Forms


If judgment was by default:

If you were unaware of the judgment until your bank account was frozen, you may be able to ask the court to set aside (vacate) the judgment. See our guide on Relief from Default Judgments for more information.


If you receive notice from your bank that funds have been withdrawn due to a court judgment (“levied”), and you want to object, act fast. You have 15 days (20 days, if you were served by mail) to file a Claim of Exemption. Here’s how.

Creditors commonly collect on court judgments by levying, or seizing, funds from a debtor’s bank or credit union accounts. To do this, the creditor must 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 by withdrawing money from a particular bank or banks in that same county.

Upon receiving the order to levy, the bank will typically freeze the funds in the affected account(s) (up to the amount of levy), or will give those funds to the sheriff. Only funds in the account at the time of the levy will be frozen or seized. (For this reason, creditors often levy accounts after the first of the month when most people have just received paychecks.)

Automatic exemptions: Pension payments and government benefits are automatically exempt as long as they are direct-deposited into your account. Up to $3500 in Social Security funds ($5250 if two payees use the account) and up to $1750 in other benefits ($2600 for two payees using the same account) is shielded from being frozen by the bank or seized by the sheriff. These amounts are adjusted annually.

Effective Sept. 1, 2020: California law exempts a minimum amount in one account, regardless of its source. (Exception: if the debt is for child or spousal support (alimony), or for wages you owe someone, this exemption does not apply.) This amount changes annually on July 1. For the period of July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024, the exempt amount is $2080. If the exemption for public benefits or pensions is larger, that exemption applies instead.

This new exemption is limited to one (1) bank account per debtor. If you have more than one account, and want to specify which account is protected by the automatic exemption, you may file an application with the court, using the forms Ex Parte Application for Order on Deposit Account Exemption (EJ-157), Declaration Regarding Notice and Service for Ex Parte Application for Order on Deposit Account Exemption (EJ-158), and Order on Application for Designation of Deposit Account Exemption (EJ-159).

If you do not specify, the bank will decide which account is exempt.

If a judgment creditor attempts to levy your bank account, you will be mailed a Notice of Levy (EJ-150), along with some other informational documents. The bank or sheriff will hold the seized funds for up to 20 days, allowing you the opportunity to seek to stop or reduce the levy by filing a Claim of Exemption (EJ-160).

The court may order some or all of the funds in an account exempt if:

  • The money in the account is from a source that is exempt by law. Social Security is one example, but there are many others; or
  • The money in the account is required for the basic necessities of life.

Even if the court orders funds in the account exempt from collection, the judgment still exists, and will continue to accrue 10% simple interest each year (5% for judgments entered after January 1, 2023 for medical expenses or personal debt).

One of the documents 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. 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 (for example, $2300 in a vehicle’s equity is exempt).

IMPORTANT: Remember, once you receive these documents you have 15 days (20 days, if you were served by mail) to file your Claim of Exemption (EJ-160) and Declaration (MC-030) with the sheriff’s department listed on the Notice of Levy (EJ-150). If you mail it by a service that gives you a tracking number, such as USPS Priority Mail, the postmark date counts as the date of “filing.” Otherwise, the date the Sheriff receives it is the date of filing.

Step-by-Step Instructions


Complete the Necessary Forms

Before completing your forms, gather these documents which provided needed information:

  • Notice of Levy
  • Three months of bank statements issued prior to and including or ending with the levy date
  • At least one month of paystubs (more if income varies monthly)
  • A list of your monthly expenses (e.g., rent, utilities, insurance, etc.)

The forms commonly used in this procedure are:

Instructions for completing the necessary forms are included at the end of this packet.


Copying and Assembling

Make two copies of each:

  • Claim of Exemption (EJ-160)
  • Financial Statement (WG-007/EJ-165) (if applicable)
  • Declaration (MC-030)

If you are submitting a Financial Statement (WG-007/EJ-165), attach one copy to each copy of your Claim of Exemption (EJ-160).


Turn in Your Papers

Turn in your papers from Step 2 to the levying officer listed on the Notice of Levy (EJ-150). This is usually the sheriff’s department. Deadline: 15 days to do this (20 if you were served by mail).

  • In person: must be received by close of business on or before the last day
  • Mail: must be received by the sheriff by close of business on or before the last day
  • Trackable mail (certified mail or a delivery service): must be postmarked on or before the last day.  

The sheriff will mail one copy to the judgment creditor and keep the second. Keep the other copy you made in Step 2 for your records.


What Happens Next?

The bank or levying officer will hold the money or property until one of the following happens:

The creditor agrees that the funds are exempt, or takes no action
If the creditor does not file a notice of opposition with the sheriff and court within 15 days, the exemption is automatically granted. The money or property will be returned to you.

The creditor opposes your claim
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. You do not need to file anything additional; the judge will read your Claim of Exemption. You may attend the hearing if you wish but are not required to do so.

Tentative ruling system: check the day before to see if you need to go to court
In Sacramento (and most counties), the judge reads the papers and decides how they are going to rule a few days ahead of time. Then their decision is posted on the internet at 2 p.m. the business day before your hearing date. You may read the tentative ruling online, or may call the Presiding Judge’s department at 874-8142 to hear it.

If you disagree with the ruling and want to try to convince the judge to change it, you must call the court and the other party before 4 p.m. to tell them you want to attend oral argument (that is, go to the hearing and argue your case). If neither side objects to the ruling, the court cancels the hearing and the ruling becomes an official court order.

The tentative ruling may say that the judge orders you to attend the hearing if they have questions. But usually, the tentative ruling will just contain the decision.

Closely review the tentative ruling, because there will be a lot of important information included in it. Your claim of exemption may be:

  • GRANTED: the sheriff will return the funds to you.
  • GRANTED IN PART: the sheriff will return a portion of the funds to you. The judge decided that you are entitled to part of what you requested.
  • DENIED: the funds sheriff will release the funds to the judgment creditor.
  • CONTINUED: the hearing is rescheduled to a future date. This is common if the court needs more information from you before making a ruling. Be sure to read the tentative ruling very carefully, because the court will specify what information or documents are required from you, and a date by which the information must be provided to the court.

If you are happy with the tentative ruling, you do not need to do anything. You don’t have to go to court unless ordered to appear in the tentative ruling or unless the other side calls before 4 p.m. to tell you they are planning to go. If that happens, you should go to the court hearing and be prepared to argue your case.

If you are not happy with the tentative ruling, and wish to present arguments in front of the judge, you must call all opposing counsel and/or self-represented parties, and the clerk for Department 53 ((916) 874-7858) or Department 54 ((916) 874-7848) no later than 4 p.m. the court day before your hearing and state that you are requesting oral argument.

If neither you nor the opposing party requests oral argument, the court will simply make the tentative ruling the official order of the court. If you go to court anyway, you will find that the hearing is cancelled.

For help

SH@LL (Self-Help at the Law Library) (formerly Civil Self Help Center)
609 9th Street, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 476-2731 (Appointment Request Line)
Services Provided: SH@LL provides general information and basic assistance to self-represented litigants on a variety of civil legal issues, including name changes. All assistance is provided by telephone. Visit “What we can help with” for a list of qualifying cases.
Eligibility: Must be a Sacramento County resident or have a qualifying case in the Sacramento County Superior Court.

For assistance with a Claim of Exemption- Bank Levy, you must provide:

  • Notice of Levy
  • Three months of bank statements issued prior to and including or ending with the levy date
  • At least one month of paystubs (more if income varies monthly)
  • A list, including the amounts of, your monthly expenses (e.g., rent, utilities, insurance, etc.)



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