In a previous blog post, we outlined the procedures for taking advantage of chapter 13 bankruptcy to regain a suspended driver’s license. We mentioned in that post that Illinois law allows for the suspension of a driver’s license for a long list of non-driving-related offenses. Illinois is not alone in this regard. States all across the country use driver’s licenses as a means of punishing lawbreakers who do not seem to respond any other way.
The problem with these kinds of laws is that they can lead to financial troubles – even bankruptcy – that are entirely unrelated to the offense for which the person is being punished. However, a piece of legislation currently working its way through the Florida legislature, if passed and signed by the governor, could be used as a nationwide model to end the unfair practice of indiscriminate driver’s license suspensions and the subsequent bankruptcies that often occur as a result.
Florida Suspensions: 1.2 Million Annually
The state of Florida is a great place to come up with this kind of legislation because of their 1.2 million annual driver’s license suspensions. The law does a number of important things that could reduce bankruptcies in that state. First, drivers whose licenses are suspended due to financial hardships that prevent them from paying outstanding civil fines would be offered community service as an alternative form of restitution. The kind of civil fines we are talking about here are traffic tickets and the like.
Second, the law provides for an alternative hardship license in cases where community service is not viable as an alternative form of restitution. Child support cases come to mind here. It would be inappropriate to substitute community service for unpaid child support, yet it is also inappropriate to suspend a person’s driver’s license in light of the fact that not being able to get to work will only make catching up on child support more difficult. Issuing a hardship license would allow the individual to continue to use his or her car to get to and from work until the debt is paid off.
Lastly, the law would eliminate the possibility of a felony charge for repeatedly driving with a suspended or revoked license, as long as the suspension or revocation is the result of financial hardship. This third provision may not work well in Illinois, but it is still something to think about.
A Nationwide Model
bankThe Florida bill looks positive thus far, in terms of the legislature passing it as written. It would be great to see other states look at the bill should it eventually become law. Using the Florida law as a nationwide model would bring fairness back into a system that has unnecessarily punished drivers for offenses that have nothing to do with their driving habits.
As we wait to see what happens in Florida, let us remind you that the state of Illinois can suspend or revoke your driver’s license for a long list of reasons. If a license suspension is causing undue financial hardship, a chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding may enable you to get your license reinstated after the court approves your reorganization plan.
There are lots of variables in this regard, so you definitely need legal advice before pursuing a bankruptcy filing. Our law offices can help. We urge you to contact us and arrange to meet with one of our attorneys about your case. If getting your driver’s license back can also help you get your financial house back in order, we need to consider it as a possibility.