In Louisiana, the fine for a first drunk driving conviction is $300 and the fine for a second conviction is $600. However, the fines are not the only costs you can expect to pay if you are arrested and found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. DWI defendants will have court costs, fees for any required drug or alcohol counseling, fees if they are required to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicles and costs associated with getting their license and special insurance. Because there is required mandatory minimum jail time for first offenders, as well as repeat offenders who are convicted, you may miss work (which may mean unpaid time off) as a result of being found guilty of impaired driving. Additionally, if you become involved in an accident and cause any kind of injuries or property damage, you can also become responsible for financially compensating those who were affected. The costs can add up quickly, which is why it is so important to get help from a New Orleans DWI lawyer with fighting the charges and arguing against accusations that you were impaired. If you do end up with fines, fees, a judgment or other expenses, you may find yourself in debt and facing costs you are unable to pay. When this happens, you may consider bankruptcy as an option to try to get out from under the financial struggles the drunk driving incident has caused you. The question is: Can you get debts from a DWI discharged in bankruptcy?
DWI Debts and Bankruptcy: What Does the Law Say?
The federal government establishes bankruptcy laws that apply throughout the United States, including in the state of Louisiana. This means that you must consult the federal bankruptcy code to determine if DWI debts can be discharged or not. The relevant section of the federal bankruptcy code is 11 U.S. Code Section 523, which establishes the exceptions to the types of debts that can be discharged in a bankruptcy filing. Within this code section, Section (a)(7) prevents the discharge of the majority of debts that are considered a “fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit.” Most debts incurred due to a drunk driving conviction, including criminal fines, are covered by this exception so you cannot discharge the debts incurred in a DWI case in a bankruptcy filing. Bankruptcy courts, in the past, have also prevented defendants from discharging restitution payments that were part of a criminal sentence, even though the restitution is not paid directly to the government. Debts resulting from any personal injury lawsuits arising out of drunk driving are also not dischargeable by the bankruptcy court. All of this means that you will not be able to get financial relief from a DWI conviction through a bankruptcy filing. If you hope to avoid financial loss, your best and only option is to fight the charges and try to avoid a guilty verdict. Call Bloom Legal today to speak with a DWI lawyer in New Orleans about your options for fighting the charges.