Some time ago I got fined for a traffic violation. I wasn't able to pay the fines, and the state took away my driver's license. I am planning to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and hope to discharge the traffic fines. If I do, can I get my driver's license back?
If the state took away your driver’s license because you didn’t pay your traffic fines, you can’t discharge (eliminate) those fines in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you pay back your traffic fines by eliminating many of your other debts. Read on to learn more about whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you get your driver’s license back.
For more information on how your debts are treated in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, see our topic area on Your Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
You Can't Discharge Traffic Fines in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
You can’t discharge certain types of obligations in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Unfortunately, traffic fines are one of those debts. Bankruptcy laws state that a Chapter 7 discharge will not wipe out fines or penalties you owe to a governmental unit. (To learn more, see Are Government Fines Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?)
This means that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not discharge your outstanding traffic fines. But if you were unable to pay your fines because you had too many other debts, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you by wiping out many of your obligations and allowing you to pay the fines and get your driver’s license back (discussed below).
To learn more about which debts you can’t discharge in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, see Nondischargeable Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy May Help You Pay Your Traffic Fines
Just because you can’t discharge your traffic fines in Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t mean that filing a Chapter 7 case will not help you. In many cases, debtors file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because their income doesn’t allow them to meet all of their monthly financial obligations.
If you could not pay your traffic fines because you didn’t have any money left after paying obligations such as credit cards and medical bills, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you eliminate those debts and free up money in your budget. If you will have enough money in your budget to pay the traffic fines after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it might still be in your best interest to file.
For more information on which debts you can wipe out in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, see Which Debts Are Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
Consider Filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Instead of Chapter 7
While you can’t discharge traffic fines in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be able to eliminate them in a Chapter 13. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can discharge certain fines and penalties as long as they are not criminal in nature.
Whether your traffic fines will be treated as nondischargeable criminal fines in Chapter 13 bankruptcy will depend on:
- the type of traffic violation you committed, and
- whether your state classifies the fine as civil or criminal.
But keep in mind that even if your traffic fines are not dischargeable, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can allow you pay them off through your repayment plan over the next three to five years. In many cases, if you can show that the fines are included in your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can get your driver’s license reinstated right away.
To learn more about how a Chapter 13 plan works, see our topic area on The Chapter 13 Repayment Plan.
Talk to a Bankruptcy Attorney
Whether filing for bankruptcy can help you get your driver’s license back depends on many factors including the laws of your particular state. As a result, talk to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney in your area to learn whether bankruptcy can help.