Can Chapter 7 bankruptcy help me get my driver's license back?

If you've lost your driver's license due to unpaid traffic fines, Chapter 7 bankruptcy may help reduce your debt so you can pay the fines and get your license back.

Question

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?

Answer

You can’t discharge (eliminate) traffic fines in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you eliminate many other types of debts. If you have qualifying debt—such as credit card debt with a high monthly payment—and you discharge it in Chapter 7, you should have more money available to pay back your traffic fines. Read on to learn about how filing for bankruptcy might help you get your driver’s license back.

For more information, see Your Debt in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

You Can't Wipe Out 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. A Chapter 7 discharge won’t wipe out fines or penalties you owe to a governmental unit, including outstanding traffic fines.

(To learn more, see Are Government Fines Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? and Nondischargeable Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.)

Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Might Help You Pay Traffic Fines

Just because you can’t discharge your traffic fines in Chapter 7 doesn’t mean that filing a bankruptcy case won’t help you. If you can’t pay your traffic fines because you don’t have enough left after paying credit cards balances and medical bills, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate those debts and free up money in your budget.

(For more information on which debts you can wipe out in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, see Which Debts Are Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

How Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Help Get Your Driver’s License Back

Although you can’t discharge traffic fines in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you might be able to eliminate them in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In Chapter 13, you can discharge certain fines and penalties as long as they aren’t criminal.

You’ll likely need to speak with a local bankruptcy attorney about this issue because whether the traffic fines will be 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 aren’t dischargeable, you can pay them off through your Chapter 13 repayment plan over the next three to five years. In many cases, if you can show that you’re paying the fines in your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you might be able your driver’s license reinstated right away.

Talk to a Bankruptcy Attorney

Whether filing for bankruptcy can help you get your driver’s license back will depend 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.

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