Today I received a call from a person who got a DUI in Georgia more than 15 years ago. He absconded and never attended court. He moved out-of-state, never to return. For a long time, things worked out well for him. However, things have changed for people who have skipped out on their cases.
Georgia is a member of the Interstate Driver License Compact.
There is a great deal of misinformation online about how Georgia participates with other states. Georgia will report all convictions to an out-of-state driver's home state, and will also put convictions on the MVR of its own citizens after a conviction in another state.
The only thing Georgia does not do is add points from other states to a new Georgia driver's license holder. As long as a person comes to Georgia with a valid license, their new Georgia license will start with zero points.
How does this affect people who have chosen not to attend court?
For years, those who have absconded have faced little to no issues. Georgia will not pay to extradite a person from another state for a misdemeanor warrant. Additionally, few people suffered problems getting a new license in another state. That has now changed.
Since Georgia participates in the Interstate Driver License Compact, when Georgia places a hold on a person's license, that driver cannot renew their license. Eventually, once renewal comes, the driver must resolve their case in Georgia; or they will face a lifetime license suspension.
As a result, people now have no choice but to come back here to the great State of Georgia to settle their missed court appearances on any charge; from a traffic ticket to a DUI. There is no other alternative. Of course, we can help.
Today's caller proclaimed his innocence, and I believed him. In fact, his innocence was the reason he skipped town. However, in all practicality, he forfeited his "right" to fight his case. Since there is a warrant for his arrest and since a failure to appear bench warrant has no bond, he would have to sit in jail until his case was called for trial. The judge and the prosecutor know the evidence is gone, the officer has retired and moved away, and that they cannot win the case against someone who has disappeared for 15 years. They will not even try to win. The process would become the punishment. If he wants to fight his case, I explained it will take several months for him to get a trial. In effect, the court will put his case last on the docket to "force" him to plead guilty to be released.
The lesson here is that you have to participate in the legal process to exercise your right to due process. If you decide to run, all bets are off.