We have clients that have for one reason or another, become indebted to the Harris County Toll Road Authorty (HCTRA) for unpaid toll road violations. Sometimes it is their fault, other times it is just an understandable oversight. Anyway, if you don't pay the toll violations, they may block your auto registration renewal.

If you have had your vehicle registration blocked because of unpaid HCTRA or Harris County Toll Road Authority fines, HCTRA is currently releasing the block if you file bankruptcy.

The filing of a bankruptcy case causes an "automatic stay" or federal court order to go into effect, which prevents among other things, "an act to exercise control over property of the estate," which is prohibited by 11 U.S.C. Sec. 362(a)(3).

This does not necessarily mean that the fines are discharged in bankruptcy, although our understanding is that is how HCTRA is currently treating them.

Part or all of the toll road fines could be determined to be non-dischargeable in bankruptcy pursuant to a different section of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. Sec. 523(a)(7). See In re Holder, 376 B.R. 802 (S.D. Tex. 2007) (traffic violation surcharges by Texas Department of Public Safety found to be non-dischargeable). So please start paying your tolls!

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
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