Criminal Debt

We do not practice criminal law.  But we do practice debt law, which includes criminal debt, restitution, LFO’s, and fines.  These types of debts are generally non-dischargeable but can be amortized through bankruptcy, appealed, settled, litigated, and resolved via other techniques.  Call us today to see how we can help.

Criminal Debt Resolution

If you are dealing with debts related to violations of law, we may be able to help.  There are many ways of doing this ranging from settlement, to litigation, to bankruptcy, to out of the box techniques.  

In Washington, even criminal debts are subject to a statute of limitation

Judgments, even those for criminal debts, are good for 10 years and may be renewed within 90 days of the 10 years expiring.  If you were confined, the statute tolls until your total confinement ends.  See RCW 6.17.020(4)
(4) A party who obtains a judgment or order for restitution, crime victims’ assessment, or other court-ordered legal financial obligations pursuant to a criminal judgment and sentence, or the assignee or the current holder thereof, may execute, garnish, and/or have legal process issued upon the judgment or order any time within ten years subsequent to the entry of the judgment and sentence or ten years following the offender’s release from total confinement as provided in chapter 9.94A RCW. The clerk of superior court, or a party designated by the clerk, may seek extension under subsection (3) of this section for purposes of collection as allowed under RCW 36.18.190, provided that no filing fee shall be required. 
If the party attempts to collect a debt that is discharged, it could be a violation of consumer protection laws and may enable you to file counterclaims.

If the ability to pay was not considered, it may be a basis for appeal

The Washington State Supreme Court, in State v. Blazina, ruled that courts must consider a person’s ability to pay in establishing discretionary legal financial obligations (LFO’s).  If your ability to pay was not considered, you may be able to get the LFO’s removed or reduced.

If the collection agency has included unauthorized amounts or applied payment to expired debt- we can sue

Consumer protection laws still apply regardless of the nature of the debt.  Collectors must use the correct principal amounts and interest calculations during the entire process.  If they do not or if they apply garnished amounts to debts beyond the statute of limitations, you may have a claim.

Interest on criminal debt can be removed or reduced

RCW 10.82.090 allows interest to removed or reduced upon motion.  Typically if it has been a long time and you have had no other criminal legal issues, this is possible.  There is a very nice fee waiver guide put out by Washington Law Help if you feel comfortable filing on your own or with pro bono assistance.  As a private firm, we do offer this service but have to charge.

Bankruptcy can be used to discharge (limited basis) or amortize criminal debt

Generally criminal debts and fines are not dischargeable as well as vehicular harms involving drugs or alcohol pursuant to 11 USC 523(a)(7)

(7)to the extent such debt is for a fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit, and is not compensation for actual pecuniary loss, other than a tax penalty—

(A) relating to a tax of a kind not specified in paragraph (1) of this subsection; or
(B) imposed with respect to a transaction or event that occurred before three years before the date of the filing of the petition;

What the above code section means is if the sum is a punishment (restitution for example) it is non-dischargeable.  If it is to compensate for sums spent by the government, then it is dischargeable.  For example, imagine you were speeding and the ticket amount is $1,000.00.  This is a punishment and non dischargeable.  But lets say that that you received an overpayment on unemployment and they want that overpayment amount back, that would be dischargeable as its not a punishment but compensation.

This code section also interacts with Chapter 13 via 11 USC 1328(a)(3)-(4)

(3) for restitution, or a criminal fine, included in a sentence on the debtor’s conviction of a crime; or
(4) for restitution, or damages, awarded in a civil action against the debtor as a result of willful or malicious injury by the debtor that caused personal injury to an individual or the death of an individual.

Chapter 7 can also be used to discharge non-criminal debt to free up the cash flow to pay for non-dischargeable restitution.

Chapter 13 can also be used to prevent garnishment for debts and to afford you some measure of life style under the chapter 13 plan.  Even without discharge, this can be repeated as necessary.  When combined with the natural expiration of criminal judgments, it is possible to limit the harms a long term restitution garnishment can cause.

Criminal debts can be settled

Any debt can be settled.  Private parties tend to be more personally invested which makes settlement tricky.  Government collectors are impersonal but know they have a great deal of leverage and can threaten to pull your license.  In either case, call us to see how we can help.

Strategic consultation

Beyond the above, there are methods of structuring income, assets, type of profession, and other angles to create leverage for a good settlement or debt avoidance.  By combining structuring, leverage, and legal techniques, we can help determine the best method of resolving any criminal debts that you are dealing with.  These are typically 1-2 hour long in depth paid consultations.  You are welcome to start with a free initial phone consultation to see if this is what you need.  Call 206-535-2559 to schedule a free initial phone consultation or in depth in person paid consultation.