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Criminal Restitution Payments and Bankruptcy

When considering filing for bankruptcy, any number of factors may impact that decision. While most are financial considerations, we know there are other factors. We also know there are different types of debt that may cause someone to seek relief from the bankruptcy code. Many people have credit card debt, or are upside down in a car or home loan, but there are other possible financial issues. One of those issues may be restitution ordered in a criminal case as a condition or a plea, condition of probation, or pursuant to sentencing after a trial.

Now, please understand that court fees and criminal restitution are not dischargeable by bankruptcy. However, we may still be able to help you with your court costs and restitution. We know that those payments can range from very small amounts to large amounts that equal or exceed your monthly rent/mortgage payments. And in some case, particularly those where you accepted a plea offer, you may have agreed to those monthly expenses as a condition of probation. You probably thought you could figure out a way to make the payments, or maybe you were and something has changed. Don’t worry; all hope is not lost just yet.

While the court fees and criminal restitution amounts are not dischargeable, they can be put into a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan. This can help in a number of ways. First, if you have other debts that are dischargeable the debts owed to the court may reduce the amount you pay to unsecured creditors. Second, like all bankruptcy plans, it consolidates your debt into one affordable monthly payment. This will likely lower the overall payments you are making and give you some breathing room.

We have had questions about how this will impact probation. The legal answer, in Missouri (and a few other states), that you probation cannot be revoked for seeking relief under the Bankruptcy Code, as long as your restitution will be addressed. The automatic stay that applies to all creditors also applies to criminal courts and they cannot continue to make collection efforts or punish you for non-payment. In a Chapter 13, payments will be made; it is simply a matter of timing. Many judges are not aware of this, or are even under the misguided belief that probation granted to a defendant can be revoked despite the defendant filing for bankruptcy. We tell you this because you will probably have to fight this if it comes up, but not to worry, we can help you with that should the need arise. If you used a different firm for your criminal case, not to worry, we can still help.

If you have questions about this, or any other bankruptcy matter, contact your St. Louis Bankruptcy Attorney today for a free consultation.

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