I filed Bankruptcy: My Driver’s License Is Still Suspended

This is a true story that happened last week for one of my chapter 13 bankruptcy clients. The client received a notice from the Illinois Secretary of State that his driver’s license was going to be suspended for failure to pay parking tickets by a specific date. He sought my advice on chapter 13 bankruptcy because he knew that entering into a chapter 13 repayment plan would prevent his driver’s license from being suspended. We worked incredibly hard to get his case filed before the actual suspension date. We filed the case, we faxed proof of filing to the Secretary of State in Springfield, Illinois and we awaited some good news regarding his driver’s license. Regrettably, what we found out was anything but good news.

The fax proof of bankruptcy filing was sent to the Secretary of State. We have physical proof that the notice of chapter 13 bankruptcy filing was received by the Secretary of State in Springfield, Illinois. What we did not receive was confirmation that they had updated their computer system and that there would be no suspension of my clients driver’s license. This is what we actually found out. After numerous calls to the Secretary of State, it became clear that their office had not processed properly the notice that they received regarding his bankruptcy filing. Thankfully, there was a very helpful employee who advised me to re-fax the notice and that she would put it on top of the box of notices to process. Checking with the office later that day, we were told that his driver’s license would still be suspended. I was completely surprised by their lack of knowledge of the bankruptcy laws vis-à-vis driver’s license suspensions.

 

What I was told was that the Secretary of State has up to five business days to process the notice. Since the suspension date was going to occur prior to the termination of the five business days, I was advised that the driver’s license would be suspended despite the fact that the bankruptcy case was filed prior to the date of suspension. The office was basically telling me that they can withhold processing the notice for up to five days which effectively suspends a driver’s license. This will now cost my client an additional fee to reinstate his license. In my opinion, there should be no fee because his license should not have been suspended in the first place. His chapter 13 bankruptcy case was filed prior to the suspension date and the mere fact that the Secretary of State needs time to process it should not affect the fact that he filed prior to being suspended.

 

I advised the Secretary of State that I would be contacting Jesse White to determine whether or not this office procedure is condoned and also whether or not it is proper under the circumstances of filing for bankruptcy. We are also considering bringing a motion for sanctions to hold the office of the Secretary of State in contempt for not abiding by the automatic stay in the filing of the chapter 13 bankruptcy case. This blog will be updated as events occur.

 

Lastly, it would be my hope that the Secretary of State, who deals routinely with driver’s license suspensions and chapter 13 bankruptcy would assist the debtor whose filing occurred prior to the actual date of suspension. To do otherwise, would be a disservice to the residents of the state of Illinois and tantamount to fraud.

 

 

 

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