Can I Discharge Motor Vehicle Surcharges and Court Fines in Chapter 7?

A client was recently convicted of driving under the influence and called for advice.  New Jersey has some of the toughest laws in the nation for these situations.  A driver convicted of DUI for the first time in New Jersey is required to pay court fines to the municipality where the offense occurred.  S/he is also obligated to pay a restoration fee to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, as well as the sum of $1,000.00 per year for a period of three years to the New Jersey Violation System as a surcharge.  And if the driver fails to pay the surcharges after license restoration, his/her license can be suspended by the State of New Jersey.

Filing a no asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition can provide some relief.  A Chapter 7 debtor is entitled to discharge all motor vehicle surcharges.   It is necessary to forward a copy of your bankruptcy petition to the Surcharge Administration Office in Trenton.  Once you receive a Chapter 7 discharge, the Surcharge Administration will write off the surcharges from your record.

If your surcharge has been reduced to judgment, then you will need to file a motion with the court to vacate the judgment after one year has expired from discharge.  That is an extra expense and cost.  Whether there is a judgment against you can be checked by your bankruptcy attorney on line using the New Jersey Judiciary website.

Unfortunately, NJMVC restoration fees and municipal court fines are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  There is a special exception to discharge in the Bankruptcy Code for debts owed to governmental units.  Motor vehicle surcharges are an exclusion from that rule.

Our client was happy to get this advice from us.  Call us today to see if filing Chapter 7 is right for you!

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