In this attorney’s opinion, driver’s responsibility fees only compounds our economic problems and do not “encourage” drivers to drive more responsibly.
Criminal penalties are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, Michigan driver’s responsibility fees are 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. Therefore, they should not fall under the “criminal penalty” non-dischargeability exception to the list of debts dischargeable under the US Bankruptcy 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, with 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.”