Bankruptcy can’t write off criminal fines or restitution. None of its Chapters can. But bankruptcy can still help in other crucial ways.
You are having trouble financially making ends meet. Life’s tense and frustrating, so you do something not so wise and get charged with a crime.
Your life is turning upside down and you need help figuring out how to turn it back around. Who do you go to for help? How can you deal with both your criminal and financial messes?
Is there any way that bankruptcy could help?
You Need Money, and Quick
If you’re charged with a crime, you need money for two stages of the process:
to fight the criminal charge—defense attorney fees and costs
to deal with the consequences—criminal fines, restitution, other court and probation fees (unless you get the charges completely dropped)
Coming up with the money is especially hard if you were already hurting financially before you were hit with the criminal charge.
Bankruptcy Allows You to Prioritize
Filing bankruptcy can help by empowering you to focus your resources on what is most important. It usually enables you to write off many or most of your debts. Then you can focus your finances on dealing with the criminal matter.
When you get some relief on the financial side, you can have a clear mind to be fully involved in your criminal defense.
Help at the Beginning
You likely need financial help right when you get charged.
You may well need to be quite brutal in your prioritization. You’ll likely need to ratchet back your lifestyle for a while. For example, you may need to surrender back to your lender a vehicle with high monthly payments. Or one on which you owe more than it’s worth. Bankruptcy will write off any financial fallout.
And, you may have to stop living so freely on credit, maybe have to stop relying on plastic pretty much altogether. You may just need to stop paying your creditors so that you can take care of what’s the most important.
What’s most important may be to avoid a criminal record, or a felony conviction, or keeping out of jail. The detriments of bankruptcy may well pale in comparison with avoiding such crime-related detriments. So, filing bankruptcy may, in the right circumstances, provide you the financial relief and edge you need.
Help After the Plea Bargain or Conviction
You may also need bankruptcy help after your criminal case is resolved.
You may have had a gap in your income if you lost your job because of your criminal charges. You may now have a job that pays less. You either missed some debt payments, or can no longer afford to pay them, or both.
On top of that you now probably have some conviction-related expenses you absolutely must pay. These may include restitution payments, probation and supervision fees, treatment costs, community service fees, or chemical and electronic monitoring charges.
Some of these obligations can be huge, such as restitution. Others can be relatively small. But either way, if you cannot pay them, the consequences can be terrible. You certainly don’t want a creditor garnishing your wages or bank account so that you can’t pay an absolutely critical payment ordered by the criminal court. Bankruptcy can do away with that risk.
Other, Non-Criminal Crucial Debts and Expenses
Besides directly criminal debts and expenses, you may have other related ones that you must pay.
Sometimes the criminal court imposes conditions requiring you to keep current on certain debts or expenses. Depending on the nature of your offense, you may be required to keep absolutely current on your child support payments, or file and pay your taxes on time, or always maintain vehicle insurance. Filing bankruptcy can make it possible for you to pay such debts or expenses.
Similarly, a criminal conviction often requires you to attend certain events as conditions of release. These can include your community service, probation meetings, or sometimes simply regular employment. These require reliable transportation. So you need to be able to make your vehicle payments or pay for the insurance, or for public transportation. Again, filing bankruptcy may be the best way for you to be able to pay for such essentials.