Increasingly as cities feel the economic crunch of the current financial crisis, they begin turning to raising permits, taxes, and fines. Criminal fines have also risen. When someone is accused of a crime and pleads guilty or no contest or even convicted, they may be assessed criminal fines or have to pay restitution to the alleged victim. These fines serve to fill the city coffers, “punish” the accused, and offer redress to the alleged victim. Most often, after the accused has already paid his debt to society through probation or incarceration, they are still left with the debt of these criminal fines. Saddled with this debt most people have a difficult time paying for other bills. These other bills often become neglected and before you know it, a downward spiral of debt ensues. That is when many people turn to bankruptcy for help. Attorney Walter Benenati in Orlando explained to me how criminal cases can turn someone’s life upside down where they are forced to turn to bankruptcy. He is known for his Life Has a Restart Button campaign which he advertises in Central Florida. As he put it, “Sometimes the last choice is the best choice” for eliminating debt. He said bankruptcy usually does not get rid of criminal fines or restitution but it can help wipe out other debts (i.e. credit cards, loans, broken leases, repos) so a person can focus on paying back his debts to government. He said a person can recover from a bankruptcy within two years. He knows because he had to file bankruptcy years ago and now he helps others get a fresh start.