Resolving a Failure to Appear (FTA) in Georgia:
If you receive a citation or ticket, you have a responsibility to appear in court. A Failure to Appear (“FTA”) is very serious because it can result in a bench warrant. If you miss your court date for a criminal or traffic citation, not only will a judge issue a bench warrant for your arrest, but your driver's license will also be suspended.
Georgia Regulation 375-3-3-.12 Suspension of License for Failure to Appear states:
(1) The Department shall suspend the driver's license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state of any person who has failed to respond to a citation to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction of this state or of any other state for a traffic violation other than a parking violation. The Department shall forthwith notify such person that his license is to be suspended subject to review as provided for by law. Such suspension shall be effective no more than twenty-eight (28) days from the date on the notice of such suspension sent to such customer. If such customer is not a resident of the State of Georgia, information pertaining to his or her failure to appear shall be sent to his or her state of residence for imposition of the suspension in that jurisdiction as provided in the terms of the Non-Resident Violator Compact or such other interstate agreement or law that applies to such customer.
(2) Any customer who is notified of a pending suspension for failure to appear may request a hearing before the Office of State Administrative Hearings. The request shall be submitted pursuant to the provisions of Ga. Admin. Comp. Ch. 375-3-3-.04. At the hearing on an appeal from a suspension of a license due to a violator's failure to appear to respond to a citation, the DDS Form 912, when completed by the judge, clerk, or other employee of the court, or electronic submission thereof from such court, shall be conclusive and shall be sufficient to support the suspension. The attendance of the judge, clerk, other employee of the court, or law enforcement officer is not required, and no suspension shall be withdrawn or vacated due to a failure of such official or employee to appear at the administrative hearing.
The FTA suspension effective date goes into effect 28 calendar days after DDS receives notice about the failure to appear. FTAs can be satisfied in a variety of ways depending on the jurisdiction.
The Atlanta Municipal Court has a very specific procedure that needs to be followed:
The first thing that happens when you fail to appear, is the judge issues a bench warrant for your arrest and transmits your driver's license information to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (“DDS”) for a license suspension. You will remain in FTA status until you pay the applicable fines and resolve the matter before the judge.
To resolve the matter before a judge, you will need to schedule a FTA hearing. At that hearing, you can have a judge review the FTA charge. The City of Atlanta Municipal Court holds these hearings on a limited basis Monday through Thursday.
The time of this hearing depends on your original court time. If it was at 8:00 A.M., you must appear in court between Monday and Thursday between 7:00 A.M. and 7:30 A.M. If the original court time was at 3:00 P.M., you must appear in court any day between Monday and Thursday, between 12:00 P.M. and 2:00 P.M.
The courthouse is located at 150 Garnett Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. When you arrive at the courthouse, proceed through security, and go to one of the windows in the main lobby. At any of these windows, except for Window 7, you can check in and be put on a calendar.
Your courtroom will be the same courtroom that you were originally assigned. Note that each courtroom has different rules regarding electronics. To be safe, turn your cell phone off before entering. When you arrive in the courtroom, confirm with the prosecutor that you are in the correct location.
Next, you will either appear before the judge or you will be asked to pay a $100 fine for missing the original court date. The fine can be paid at the Clerk's office on the second floor.
When you appear before the judge, the judge may consider any potential mitigating circumstances for missing court, for example, if you were in the hospital or jail at the time of the original court date. Bring all documentation available to explain why you missed court.
Once you pay the $100 FTA fee, you will receive three things: (1) a Form 912 FTA Withdrawal to be submitted to the Georgia DDS to reinstate your driver's license; (2) a copy of the receipt indicating that you satisfied the FTA; and (3) a “Fail Safe” letter, which states that your arrest warrant has been cancelled. The “Fail Safe” letter is extremely important because it helps you avoid any problems when you drive to DDS to turn in the Form 912 form. If an officer stops you on the way to DDS, show the officer both the Form 912 and Fail Safe letter.
To reinstate your license, you will need to bring all three documents to DDS as well as proof of identity. You will have to pay a $210 fee at DDS.
If you have been charged with a traffic offense in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court, contact an Atlanta Traffic Ticket Attorney today. As you can see, a FTA has major consequences and hiring an Atlanta Traffic Ticket Lawyer will ensure that you do not receive a FTA.