DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

August 22, 2013

About the Law: Bankruptcy doesn't cover parking tickets

Andrew Myers
About the Law

---- — My friend was charged with a crime after a long talk with police. How can he defend, claiming involuntary confession other than not having his Miranda rights, the right to remain silent, explained to him?

Intimidation? Being enticed with an offer of a deal? Lengthy interrogation - how long is too long? And what if the person has an attention disorder like ADHD?

Resolving questions of this nature requires detailed analysis of all of the facts and circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court, and the highest courts of all 50 states, have written volumes of case law on the issue of involuntary confessions. Also the law is frequently challenged and changes over time.

Whether any admission was knowing and voluntary depends on the totality of the circumstances. Depending on the facts a motion to suppress evidence may or may apply.

The mental and physical condition of the person in custody is one of many relevant factors. But in the 2011 case of State v. Gutierrez, confessions were allowed where the court was not persuaded that a juvenile’s ADHD prevented him from sufficiently understanding his rights or the consequences of waiving them.

It all boils down to the totality of the circumstances.

Last year I filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a discharge. I thought this cleared all debt except student loans.

A few months ago, a collection company sent me a demand to pay a parking ticket I got a long time ago in New York. I sent via certified mail, with a copy of my bankruptcy discharge, saying it was an honest mistake that I didn’t list the ticket on my bankruptcy petition. They responded by saying the ticket was not discharged under Section 523. They basically said “pay up or else.” Now what?

You might save money by just paying it. Here’s why I say that.

The government wrote the bankruptcy code, so we can’t be surprised that it protects many units of the government. Bankruptcy Code section 523(a)(7) excludes debts from discharge “to the extent such debt is for a fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit.” So, the common view is that parking tickets survive Chapter 7.

You can make a valid argument that if this parking ticket is not a fine, and is subject to civil enforcement only as a revenue measure rather than a police power matter, then it would have been discharged.

Meanwhile, if you fail to pay the ticket, there is the possibility a bench warrant could be issued and the next time you get stopped for a broken tail light or anything else, you could have problems. Unless the ticket is for a high amount, as a practical matter, it might be best to pay it.

As a final note, in a Chapter 13, parking tickets are treated like all other unsecured debt and can be discharged.

Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry and North Andover. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. Send questions to andrew@attorney-myers.com.