Crime is expensive. Between attorney's fees, court fines, and incarceration costs, a defendant who is convicted of a crime can easily find themselves leaving jail with thousands of dollars in debt. While filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a good way to get rid of some of those bills, it's important to note that not all costs related to a criminal case can be discharged. Here's more information about this issue.
Dischargeable vs. Non-Dischargeable Court Debt
Whether a debt associated with a criminal case can be eliminated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on how it arose and its connection to the defendant's sentencing. In general, debts that the court orders the defendant to pay are non-dischargeable.
Court fines, victim restitution, state bail bonds, and incarceration costs baked into sentencing are not eligible for bankruptcy discharge. For instance, jail fees can usually be wiped out if they're billed by the incarceration agency or other third party. However, those fees become non-dischargeable if the judge orders the defendant to pay them as part of their punishment for the crime.
It should be noted, though, that laws differ between states sometimes. A debt that may be dischargeable in one state may not be in another simply because of how the law that affects either the defendant's criminal case or the bankruptcy petition is worded. It's best to consult with a bankruptcy attorney who has experience in this area for information about how local laws will impact your case.
Courts Debts May Still Impact Your Life
Bankruptcy can free you from the burden of repaying debts related to your criminal case. But the associated consequences of those debts may not completely go away. For instance, in some states, you cannot regain your voting rights if you still owe money for your incarceration costs.
While bankruptcy eliminates your legal responsibility to pay that money, that doesn't mean the state is required to delete the debt. It just can't take any legal action to collect on it. The debt may remain on the books indefinitely until you voluntarily pay it off.
Regardless, if you still have legal debts related to a criminal case that continue to dog your steps even after you've file bankruptcy, there are ways you can take care of them. One option is to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to pay the debts off over time while still enjoying protection from legal action like wage garnishments. Another option is to have your attorney negotiate an affordable pay off balance for less than what's owed.
For advice and assistance with handling unmanageable debt, contact a local bankruptcy attorney.