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Dealing with Fines in Bankruptcy


One of the worst situations faced by clients is when their driving privileges or tags are flagged as a result of fines or other obligations due to the State of Maryland. Clients at times come to our Maryland bankruptcy attorney complaining that they cannot drive because they are unable to renew their license. This is unfortunate and in some cases may not be something that can be fixed by filing a bankruptcy. The clearest example of what can be remedied if the situation where the license is either revoked or cannot be renewed because the client was in an accident without insurance and there was damage that had to be paid by either the state of Maryland or another insurer. These uninsured motorist cases will easily be resolved by the State once either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is filed.



parking ticket

More difficult are cases where the suspension or flag is due to a fine for having an insurance lapse, parking tickets, camera tickets or toll penalties. The problem discharging these obligations is that the fines are specifically excluded from being discharged in Chapter 7 cases by Section 523(a) (7) of the bankruptcy code.  This section prevents a discharge of civil fines unless those fines are designed to compensate the government entity for the damage caused by the violation. Thus parking fines, insurance lapse penalties and the like are most likely not going to go away with a Chapter 7 case.

In a Chapter 13 case the result for clients may be different depending on the nature of the fines or penalties. The discharge provisions of Chapter 13 are slightly broader than in Chapter 7. In Chapter 13 civil fines and penalties can be discharged based on Section 1328 (a) (2) of the bankruptcy Code. Interpretation of this section is not as simple as it might seem however since one still needs to determine if the fines or penalties are civil or criminal in nature or will not go away for other reasons. Criminal fines, criminal restitution awards will not be discharged under Section 1328 (a) (3) of the Bankruptcy Code.



The fraud provisions and the exclusion from discharge for “willful, malicious injury” still might apply depending on the circumstances. For example if the client is a scofflaw and has so many fines that it shocks the conscience the Bankruptcy court might have a harder time letting these debts get discharged even in a chapter 13 case.



This is a complicated area requiring careful analyses of the particular situation by an experienced Maryland Bankruptcy lawyer before any determination can be made whether the fines or penalties will be dealt with in the bankruptcy and discharged. The other consideration is can whether the State will be required to issue a drivers license or to remove flags. This again will require assistance by an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.


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