Floridians may have their driver’s license suspended or revoked for various reasons, which means that they are legally not allowed to drive. Such suspension or revocation could significantly disrupt one’s life, as they would have to rely on public transportation or taxis to get around or to fulfill some obligations. Suspensions could be due to an accumulation of traffic violations or a one-time mistake that could even have happened without you noticing. Events that could lead to suspension of a driver’s license in Florida include:
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- Accrual of certain traffic points or habitual traffic offenses
- Arrest on suspicion of DUI
- Involvement in an auto accident without insurance
- Failure to pay a traffic ticket or show up at a traffic court to dispute
- Failure to pay child support
- Application by a creditor to have a debtor’s driver’s license suspended for failing to pay personal injury or property damage debts if the debtor caused an accident without auto insurance
- Other traffic and criminal offenses
Traffic tickets and creditors’ applications are the two factors that are closely linked to bankruptcy. Individuals looking to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on the back of financial struggles often ask whether their fines will be wiped out upon filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Read on to find out the interplay between Chapter 7 bankruptcy and your driver’s license suspension, as well as other scenarios.
Traffic Tickets And Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Failure to pay a traffic ticket may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Under the federal law regarding exceptions to discharge, any debts in the form of penalties or fines payable to any governmental unit (federal, state, local) won’t be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Parking tickets, toll violations, and other traffic violation fines are also some of the debts that can’t be discharged by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Debts Arising From Auto Accidents
Individuals who get into accidents without insurance can also have their driver’s license suspended. Whenever they are sued and a judgment passed against them, such individuals are often required to pay the aggrieved party damages (as awarded by the court) in full. Sometimes, their insurance may not be enough to pay for all damages, and the aggrieved party’s insurance company can request the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your license.
Drivers may also have their driver’s license suspended following a drunk driving accident or malicious accident. In such cases, financial obligations to pay any damages for bodily injury, criminal fees, restitution, or court fees are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Such individuals will have to pay these debts in full or devise a payment plan for their driver’s license reinstated.
While Chapter 7 bankruptcy may not help discharge such debts, filing may indirectly help such individuals and have their driver’s license reinstated. Such individuals will most likely struggle to pay medical bills and credit card balances, and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate such debts and free up some money in their budget. In turn, they can use the money to pay any non-dischargeable debts, such as traffic tickets and other debts resulting from auto accidents.
Creditor’s Application For Driver’s License Suspension
Collection firms and creditors can also have a debtor’s driver’s license suspended after obtaining a judgment. Under the Florida Statute 324.121, the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend the license and registration and any nonresident’s operating privilege to any individual against whom a judgment has been rendered. Therefore, creditors may apply for the suspension of a debtor’s driver’s license in court in a bid to have them pay off their debts.
If your driver’s license is suspended on such grounds, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help reinstate it. Upon filing for bankruptcy, the automatic stay comes into effect, protecting you from any collection activities by your creditors. What’s more, the automatic stay ensures that the suspension is lifted until your bankruptcy case is completed. Debtors have the right to sue creditors who violate the automatic stay by failing to release the suspension.
Through such lawsuits, debtors can recover damages such as taxi/Uber costs, lost wages, lawyer fees, or any other costs arising from the suspension of their driver’s license. The court may also award punitive damages if the actions of the creditor were enough to warrant the award of such damages.
Getting Your License Back After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
While filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may help you get your suspended driver’s license reinstated, it is important to note that it might not be immediate. It might take some time as your bankruptcy trustee will have to sort through your financial situation and see how things are. After the court finalizes your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, your financial situation will shape up, and the picture will be clear.
When most of your unsecured debts are wiped out, you’ll need to apply to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to have your driver’s license reinstated. In some instances, individuals may have to wait for months before their license is reinstated, even after paying non-dischargeable debts and the reinstatement fees.
Alternative For Getting Your Suspended Driver’s License Back
Besides Chapter 7, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can also help individuals who have had their driver’s license suspended. This is especially true if their license was suspended due to parking tickets, traffic fines, and violations. Debts arising from traffic offenses, driving under the influence, and driving without insurance can’t be discharged by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For such individuals, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help.
In a Chapter 13 repayment plan, individuals may be required to pay a small portion of their debts, depending on the type of fines incurred. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you don’t have to wait for a discharge to have your driver’s license reinstated. Provided you are paying your debts as per your Chapter 13 repayment plan, then you can have your license reinstated immediately. However, this alternative may not be available for everyone, as some may not be eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It is advisable to consult a Florida bankruptcy lawyer to know how best you can go about having your suspended driver’s license reinstated.