Thursday, March 3, 2016

Can Criminal Fines Be Discharged in a Bucks County Bankruptcy?

I receive many referrals from attorneys, especially Bucks County criminal defense lawyers.  Frequently they want to know whether their clients fees, costs, and restitution can be included in a bankruptcy to get them a fresh start.

Sadly, the answer it generally "no" for a Chapter 7.  If you owe court costs and fines pursuant to a criminal case, those charges are generally not dischargeable.

If you owe restitution as part of a criminal case, it is generally not dischargeable.  Restitution can be for property damage.  If there is a DUI with an accident out of Bucks County, for example, you may be liable for the property damage of the vehicle and any surrounding damage (such as a light pole).  

Restitution can also be for medical bills.  This can include co-pays or deductibles from hospitals.
If there is a "theft of services" charge and a person owes restitution to the victims, that is not able to be discharged.

If a person files a Chapter 13, however, there can't be a discharge but it is potentially possible to pay the fines, costs, or restitution in the plan.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Can I file for bankruptcy while in a Bucks County geriatric community?

Frequently, people in the legal community will send me bankruptcy clients who are either injured or who are senior citizens.

For example, my Quakertown DUI Lawyer friend has been a big source of referrals for my Upper Bucks County office.  When people are disabled, my Bucks County Disability Lawyer friend will send me those who are no longer able to work.  Frequently, they send me people who are senior citizens.

I have represented Bucks County residents who are in a nursing home, over 55 community, or have full-time home health care.  Other times, they have partial home health care.

No one in any geriatric community is precluded from filing a Bucks County bankruptcy.  You just have to qualify for a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 like everyone else.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Taping of the Meeting of the Creditors

The Trustee must hold the hearing with the Bucks County debtor or debtors under oath.  Bankruptcy Rule 2003(e) further requires that the hearing be recorded verbatim using electronic sound recording equipment.

The Trustees in Bucks County use a tape recorder and microphone.  These recordings must be made available for access for two years after the hearing date.

So, when you meet with the Trustee, make sure you speak loudly and clearly so the microphone can pick up your answers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Amendments to a Bankruptcy Petition

You have filed your bankruptcy petition through a Bucks County bankruptcy lawyer.  Prior to filing the petition, you looked at every page and made sure that things are accurate and there were no errors or omissions.

Then....shucks!  You forgot something.  It might be an additional, recurring expense.  Maybe it was a rifle.  Maybe it was a family heirloom.

Well, under Bankruptcy Rule 1009(a) allows for a voluntary petition to be amended by the debtor at any time before the case is closed.  This happens frequently after the Trustee's Hearing where an error or omission shows up.  Sometimes, Schedule C must be amended to add for additional exemptions.  Generally, as long as there is no fraud or false pretense, you should be fine having your attorney file the amendments.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Co-Debtors in a Chapter 7

A lot of people in Bucks County have debts they are seeking in a Chapter 7 but they are co-signed by another individual.

It is important to note and to be understood that the automatic stay applies only to acts against the debtor and the debtor's property.  It does not protect cosigners, guarantors, or other codebtors.

Therefore -- The automatic stay of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not prevent a creditor from collecting a dischargeable debt from a cosigner.  This is important -- the calls, lawsuits, and letters may continue against a non-filing debtor.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Real Housewives of Bankruptcy Fraud

The long-awaited trial of the Giudice family has ended with a plea.  Rarely does bankruptcy fraud hit the news.  Go here for an in-depth review of the case.  But, when bankruptcy fraud does hit the news, I'm fixated on the progress of the case (which is frequently unknown given the slow wheel of federal cases).  But, this ended in a not-so-unsurprising way.

Any Bucks County bankruptcy lawyer who has done this long enough has had a client try to commit fraud, either from not disclosing property or income to more nefarious reasons.  Anytime I catch a sniff of fraud, I'm out.  The client gets their money back and the petition is never filed.  It's not worth it.  And, as you can see, it is not worth it for the person committing the fraud.

Sentencing is in July and, after discussions with a Lehigh County criminal lawyer, we both agree that there is a very strong possibility of 12 months incarceration for her and 24+ months for him.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Right of the Debtor -- Utility Services

As a debtor in a Bucks County bankruptcy, you have an opportunity to enjoy the continued use of your utility services (i.e. electric, water, etc.).  Most people in the area get their electric from PECO.

I've blogged about adequate assurance before.  Remember --- even if you owed money to the utility company, they still must provide you with service.  To retain this right, however, a debtor must, within 20 days after the date of the filing of the bankruptcy case, furnish adequate assurance of payment for future services in the form of a deposit or other security.  This is governed under 11 U.S.C. 366.