Fines, Tickets & Bail Bonds: Can They be Discharged in Bankruptcy?


If you are filing for bankruptcy, it’s important that you include all of your debt on your bankruptcy pleading. To omit any of your debts is considered bankruptcy fraud and can cause your entire case to be thrown out of court. Maybe you’d rather not include some debts on your bankruptcy paperwork because you’re embarrassed by them. Unfortunately, the bankruptcy court doesn’t take your feelings into consideration, and they want to know about all of your debts. Every. Single. One.

Regardless of whether you’re talking about criminal fines, tickets, penalties or bail bonds – they all must be included in your bankruptcy pleading. However, even though you must list all of your debts, there is no guarantee that they’ll all be 100% discharged (forgiven).

When it comes to government fines and penalties, it matters less what they’re called and more what their purpose was. Any fine or ticket that had the purpose of generating money for the government (even due to misconduct on your part) can be discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

On the other hand, if you participated in a criminal act and were fined as a result, you’ll likely be unable to discharge it. Any fine or ticket that has the goal of punishing law-breakers for their actions will not be dischargeable in a bankruptcy.

Many times it can be difficult to determine if your government fine, penalty or ticket will be able to be wiped out in bankruptcy. It can be tough to discern whether your fine was intended to compensate the government or punish you for the crime.

Some of the most common fines/penalties include:

Bridge tolls – Although sometimes controversial, most bankruptcy judges agree that unpaid bridge and road toll fines are dischargeable due to the fact that their main purpose is payment to the government for road or bridge use.

Bounced check fees – Writing bad checks is a fraudulent act; therefore, you will not be able to erase them in a bankruptcy.

Fees for violation of building codes – Violating building codes is considered to be a criminal act; therefore, these fees aren’t dischargeable either.

Tax penalties – This type of penalty has its own set of guidelines when it comes to bankruptcy law.

Unpaid bail bonds – Since bankruptcy Code 523 states that bail bonds are not monies owed to a governmental authority, they are dischargeable as long as there wasn’t any fraud involved in their acquisition.

Remember, having your debts relieved via bankruptcy is not a basic right. In order to be granted a discharge, there are many rules and regulations you need to follow throughout the entire bankruptcy process. Failing to list all of your creditors is only one of many reasons your bankruptcy petition can be denied. Some other actions to avoid during the entirety of your case include:

Failing to provide any and all documents required

Hiding property or assets with intent to commit fraud

Hiding or destroying financial records

Lying about anything relating to your case, and

Disregarding a court order

To learn more about the New Jersey bankruptcy process and what it takes to file, please read our bankruptcy blog. We will consult with you free of charge, so call our office or email us to set up an appointment. You have nothing to lose but your debt!


Image credit: The Digitel