When you're convicted of a DUI, you will likely be charged a fine by the court reflective of the severity of the crime. For instance, in Michigan, you may be charged between $100 and $500 for a first offense and $200 to $1,000 for a second offense. If you injured someone in the accident, you may be sued and made to pay a court judgment to the victim. If you just can't afford all the money you have to shell out due to a DUI event, you may be wondering if you can discharge these financial obligations through bankruptcy. In general, no. there may be an exception though.
Most Government Debt is Non-Dischargeable
Most debts owed to the government are not dischargeable in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. This includes fines and fees assessed by the court. Additionally, personal injury awards that result from intoxicated driving are also not dischargeable through a chapter 7. This means that though your other debts may be wiped out after getting a discharge, you will still owe DUI fines and personal injury awards.
However, that doesn't mean you can't use bankruptcy to help you manage the financial fallout related to being convicted of driving under the influence. You can file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows you to pay the money owed over time (anywhere from 3 to 5 years). The monthly payments are calculated based on your income. Additionally, there is an automatic stay that falls into place that prevents creditors from garnishing your wages or taking other collection action while your bankruptcy is active.
Be aware, though, that if you still owe money to the government or plaintiff after your chapter 13 case ends, that amount will not be discharged. You'll still owe the money and will need to make arrangement to pay the balance due.
When Debt May Become Dischargeable
It may be possible to discharge DUI debt if that debt passes into the hands of a different creditor. For example, if you don't pay your fines after a period of time, the government may sell your account to a collection agency. In this case, the government is no longer the owner of your debt. Since the debt has passed to a private company, you may be able to get it discharged despite the fact that the debt was incurred because of a DUI.
Dealing with debt that arises because of a DUI can be immensely challenging. It's best to do all you can to fight the charges and try to get the case dismissed if possible. For assistance with a DUI charge, contact a DUI attorney in your area.