Michigan’s driver responsibility fees are an egregiously expensive form of “administrative” punishment for those who have committed driving-related offenses that are separate from criminal penalties or fines assessed as part of a criminal sentence for an offense and separate from crime victim compensation or REPARATIONS. These fees, which are assessed after a Michigan driver receives 7 points or more against his or her license, if not paid within 30 days of assessment, can result in the loss of driving privileges. The amounts vary from offense to offense and can increase greatly if the amount owed becomes seriously delinquent.
The loss of a driver’s license is a serious financial issue in Michigan. Particularly in the Detroit area, where I practice, there is not much in the way of viable public transportation available. Without a driver’s license, job loss can also result, along with it the inability to find new employment. Without employment, it becomes more and more difficult to raise the funds needed to pay the driver’s responsibility fees—not to mention every other financial obligation a Michigan citizen may face.
In this attorney’s opinion, driver’s responsibility fees only compound the economic problems of the state of Michigan and do not “encourage” drivers to drive more responsibily in a manner that outweighs the damage done to individual livelihoods and, on a macro level, to Michigan’s economy.
Criminal penalties are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, Michigan driver’s responsibility fees are, as explained above, not “criminal penalties.” They are administrative fines levied by the Secretary of State’s office, not as a sentencing judgment or criminal statutory penalty by a criminal court conviction. Thus, they should not fall into the “criminal penalty” non-dischargeability exception to the list of debts dischargeable under the US Bankrutpcy Code as traffic tickets, parking tickets, and other fines may.
Thus, the filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy should discharge a driver’s responsibility fee arrearage, after which the Secretary of State’s office should return a driver’s license. However, that said, the State of Michigan has taken various stances on such issues at various times, including the position that such fees are non-dischargeable “criminal penalties.”
Thus, if driver’s responsibility fees are one of the primary reasons you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it is wise to retain an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney to represent you in the case that litigation with the State of Michigan is required to get the fees discharged.
If you are a southeast Michigan resident considering filing for bankruptcy, please contact me at (866) 674-2317 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free, initial consultation.