Traffic tickets are often a concern for many of our clients who are facing mounting debt. Paying these traffic violations can place added stress on your financial situation. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, the ability to discharge these traffic tickets can provide significant financial relief.
Can You Discharge Traffic Tickets in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge numerous types of debts, but excepts from discharge specific items under § 523 of the bankruptcy code. Under § 523(a)(7) a debt is not dischargeable if it is for "for a fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit, and is not compensation for actual pecuniary loss, other than a tax penalty". A traffic ticket or violation is categorized as a government fine that is exempt for discharge. Any traffic ticket or violation would not be discharged in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You would still be responsible for repaying any outstanding traffic ticket after your bankruptcy case.
Parking citations or parking tickets also fall under the category of a government fine that is not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Any parking ticket that you had prior to the filing of your bankruptcy case would not be entitled to a discharge under § 523(a)(7)
Can I Discharge Traffic Tickets in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
The issue of whether traffic tickets or violations are dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy really depends on the state law. Depending on how the state law defines a traffic ticket or violation it may or may not be subject to discharge. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides a broader a discharge than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy list the non dischargeable items under section § 1328 (a). Under this section a debt that is "for restitution, or a criminal fine, included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime" is not entitled to a discharge.
In California, a traffic violation (moving violation) is an infraction and is potentially classified as a crime. Traffic tickets and violations if classified as a crime may not be dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Traffic violations could be considered crimes based on California Penal Code Section 15 and 16. A traffic violation would fall under the category of an infraction, which could be arguably considered a crime. Whether the traffic ticket will be discharged in a Chapter 13 will depend on whether it is determined that you were convicted of a crime. For example if you fought the ticket and the court ruled against you, then you would potentially be seen as convicted of a crime in California. This would make the ticket non dischargeable. As a result in California traffic tickets in some circumstances may not be discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Keep in mind that in California, there is some disagreement in the legal community as to whether a moving traffic violation is a criminal offense or a civil offense and therefore subject to discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
In order to determine if a traffic ticket is subject to discharge your attorney would have to review how traffic tickets are categorized in the state and whether it falls under the category of crime. It is important that your local bankruptcy attorney review how traffic tickets and parking tickets are defined under their codes to determine if they are subject to discharge. If a traffic ticket or parking ticket is considered a civil offense and not crime then you can discharge them in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.