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Can I discharge NJ criminal and traffic court fines in bankruptcy?

Many times, people in New Jersey get weighed down with fines from traffic court (or even criminal) convictions. Nonpayment can lead to suspension of your driver's license, which can in turn make it hard to hold down a job. Thus I am often asked, can you wipe them out in bankruptcy?

No, you cannot. This is because fines are not considered debts owed to the state; they are considered punishment for an offense.  If you do not pay the fines, a judge can decide to convert the fines into jail time!

Why Even Trying to Discharge Them is a Bad Idea!

I once had a conversation with a colleague who was a traffic court judge in Cumberland County, New Jersey.  He had instructed the court clerk that when a bankruptcy filing came in, don't file a proof of claim (a document filed by a creditor with the bankruptcy court in order to get paid), issue a warrant for their arrest!

For this reason, I do not recommend either trying to wipe them out in a chapter 7 or proposing a payout in a chapter 13. If you are in this situation, you should work out a payment plan with the court and disclose that monthly payment in your list of expenses for the bankruptcy.

So What Do I Do?

If you live in South Jersey and are considering filing bankruptcy due to fines and other debt, feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site for a free consultation in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.

If you are looking for more information about bankruptcy, then download my free book,Top Questions People Ask About Filing Bankruptcy in New Jersey.

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