We received the following question from a user:
I owe the Department of Motor Vehicles more than $10,000 in surcharges and, as a result, my license is revoked. If I file a bankruptcy, can I get my license back?
Here’s what Jeff Jenkins had to say:
Surcharges are presently dischargeable in either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 in New Jersey. While there has never been an opinion issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (the highest Federal Court that takes its cases from the Federal District Court cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) regarding surcharges in New Jersey and their dischargeability in a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 (a decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals would be binding on all federal courts in New Jersey, be it the district court or the bankruptcy court), there have been decisions issued from time to time by bankruptcy judges in New Jersey.
Some of them say you can get rid of surcharges in a Chapter 7, some of them say you cannot. Clearly, however, you have always been able to get rid of surcharges in a Chapter 13. If we have someone who owes a large amount in surcharges, I am always a little reluctant to file a Chapter 7 for them because there could be another bankruptcy court opinion issued next week and the DMV will change its mind about the dischargeability of surcharges in a Chapter 7. In other words, the DMV looks at the last decision made by a bankruptcy judge regarding surcharges being dischargeable in a Chapter 7 and goes by that decision.
Filing a bankruptcy (right now, either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13) will eliminate your surcharge debt and enable you to get your license back, assuming that your license is revoked for nonpayment of surcharges only as opposed to additionally being revoked for not paying a municipal court fine. Surcharges are treated just like any other creditor, so if you did a Chapter 13, it is conceivable that the surcharges could be eliminated completely.