If you are in debt and/or contemplating a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the absolute last thing you need is a traffic ticket.
Los Angeles Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney Vincent Howard of HOWARD LAW wants you to understand that while there are many types of debt that can be successfully discharged in a Chapter 7, traffic tickets and other criminal fines aren't among those.
In fact, 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(7) specifically prohibit the discharge of any debt that is a "fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a government unit." This, unfortunately, excludes traffic tickets.
Other exclusions include child support payments, overdue taxes, student loans and restitution to crime victims.
The good news is that most traffic tickets aren't crazy expensive - not in the way medical debts or credit card bills are likely to be anyway. Still, it's probably not an expense you can afford. There is a possibility that you may be able to have it grouped into your other reorganization of payments if you file for a Chapter 13. But that would assume you acquired the debt prior to your filing and not as you are going through the process.
And while traffic tickets aren't always avoidable (after all, no one actually sets out to get one), there are some ways you can reduce your chances of getting slapped with a heavy fine if you are stopped.
First, understand that unless you commit an egregious violation, an officer isn't mandated to write you a ticket. Read between the lines on this: It is up to the officer's discretion, which means it's in your best interest to be polite. It won't work every time, but failing to do so is only going to hurt your case. Resist arguing with the officer. You don't have to admit to anything, but acting as if the stop is totally unfair (even if it is) is akin to calling them a liar - and they don't respond kindly to that. Be polite.
Second, be respectful. This goes along with the first tip. But it includes addressing the officer properly. For example, don't call a police officer pet names like, "hon" or "sweetie."
Third, don't lie. You don't have to fully admit to speeding or running a stop sign. In fact, it's possible that may be used against you if the officer does decide to write you a ticket. But don't lie. Officers can usually tell, and they're more apt to write you up if they sense you're being dishonest.
And finally, stay calm. It's understandable that you're probably nervous. Maybe you realize you were breaking the law. Even if you weren't, it's natural that you might be a bit jumpy or nervous. But be mindful of your actions. You don't want to alarm the officer unnecessary. Remember, traffic stops are usually quite dangerous for officers, so they are going to be on high alert. Don't make any quick movements. Keep your hands where the officer can see them. If the officer instructs you to get your license from your purse or pocket, do so very slowly.
An officer who can see that you're going out of your way to reduce his or her fears is more likely to cut you a break.
Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney Vincent Howard at HOWARD LAW can help. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.
What not to say when pulled over by a cop, Sept. 10, 2012, By Jennifer Waters, Market Watch, The Wall Street Journal
More Blog Entries:
Los Angeles Bankruptcy Should Not be Your Last Resort, July 22, 2012, Los Angeles Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer Blog