Can Bankruptcy Eliminate Speeding Camera Tickets, EZ Pass Fines & Tolls?

Toll roads and speed cameras are becoming increasingly common throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Therefore, it’s not unusual that we encounter clients with overdue fees which have quickly mounted, leaving the question of whether or not bankruptcy is an effective tool for eliminating such debts.

Why is this such an issue? It’s because unfortunately, the resulting fines, collection costs, and penalties can increase dramatically in short periods. If left unresolved, unpaid EZ Pass tolls can balloon into several thousand dollars.

Very recently, we met with a client who had accumulated in just shy of a year and a half, EZ Pass tolls and fines in excess of $10,000.  As the Intercounty Connector (ICC) between Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the HOTLanes in Northern Virginia are seeing increased utilization, these patterns are becoming more and more common, and increasingly problematic for those faced with large bills.

Speed cameras pose similar problems. Often people first realize there is a problem when they are unable to register their vehicle or renew their tags. These types of debts pose unique challenges, not only due to the way that they can increase so quickly, but also because of the limited window within which one has to challenge them through state court processes.

After enough time, it is very difficult to contest the tolls and their late fees or extra fines. What’s more, their character as government fines also poses a unique challenge as it relates to the treatment of these types of debts in bankruptcy.

Generally, most, but not all debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy. One of the exceptions from discharge though in the context of a Chapter 7 case are government fines. Interestingly, depending on if a particular toll arose from a privately run road, such as the Dulles Toll Road, versus those run by a government authority, such as the ICC, may make a difference.

Also, unpaid tolls may consist of partially dischargeable amounts and partially nondischargeable amounts. For example, the portion of a toll that is for actual monetary loss, i.e., the toll itself, if unpaid, may be dischargeable, whereas the portion that is a fine for non-payment, may not be.

Further, the dischargeable character may change if you file for Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7. Chapter 13 provides for what is sometimes referred to as a “super discharge,” which is more inclusive than the narrower discharge provisions governing Chapter 7 cases.

It’s worth remembering that filing bankruptcy usually imposes an automatic stay as well. The protection of bankruptcy is one of the ways to resolve tolls and government fines, and also, allow you to renew your registration and tags.

If you are one of the many people struggling with unpaid tolls, fines, speed camera violations, and their consequences, such as an MVA hold on renewal of your tags / license, or registration, consider setting up a free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney at the Law Offices of Goren & Tucci, LLC to find out if bankruptcy may be an option for you. Call (301) 977-4300 to schedule a free consultation.