What Happens When A Person Misses Their Court Date In Georgia?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

When a person is given a traffic ticket or is cited or arrested for a misdemeanor traffic offense, there are many consequences for missing a court appearance.  The most important thing to remember is that the problem will not resolve itself.  If you have missed a court appearance or have forgotten to pay a ticket, here are some tips:

Traffic Tickets That Could Have Been Paid Prior To Court:

Most tickets can be paid before a person's court date.   Most Georgia traffic courts allow online payment of tickets or payment by mail.  It is our position that hiring a Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyer can lead to a better outcome than simply paying the ticket; however, that is a topic for another day.

If you fail to pay a ticket or appear in court, the judge will likely suspend your Georgia driver's license. If you have an out-of-state license, you may lose your privilege to drive in Georgia.  Most states will honor the suspension and will then suspend the license of the out-of-state driver.

Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses:

The consequences differ if you fail to appear for court when the charge is a more serious misdemeanor traffic offense that requires a court appearance and could not have been resolved by paying a fine.  You are required to attend court in cases such as DUI, Hit-and-Run, Driving on a Suspended License, Reckless Driving, Aggressive Driving, Passing a School Bus, Racing, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, Possession of Marijuana, and many other related offenses.

In these cases, failing to appear will result in a suspension of your driver's license and a bench warrant for your arrest.  The word “bench” refers to the fact that the judge assigned to your case issues a warrant for your arrest.   After a warrant is issued, if you appear in court, you can be taken into custody.

If you have an interaction with police outside of court (such as at a traffic stop), you will be arrested.  This can be an absolute disaster for people because it can take weeks to resolve; weeks you will likely stay in jail.

To illustrate the gravity of the problem, let us assume someone has a warrant for an Atlanta Traffic Ticket and is picked up in South Georgia.  In this situation, that person will be held in a South Georgia jail until such time that they are picked up by the Fulton County Sheriff and transferred back to Atlanta.  The next step would be scheduling a court appearance in Atlanta to resolve the case.  Anyone should be able to see in this example that it will take weeks to resolve this problem.

2017 Law Requires Court to Send Mailed Notice of Missed Court Date:

O.C.G.A. § 17-6-11 was passed in 2017 but many courts have failed to comply with this law. It states that if a person does not appear for court in Georgia for their traffic citation, then the clerk of court must notify the accused by mail before a bench warrant is issued for their arrest. The notice gives the accused 30 days to resolve their ticket. If the ticket has not been resolved within 30 days, then the court will notify the Department of Driver Services within 5 days. Then DDS will suspend the driver's license until the ticket has been adjudicated. The accused's license shall be reinstated if they submit proof of the final adjudication and pay a restoration fee of $50.00 to DDS. The fee is $25.00 if the reinstatement is processed by mail. This law applies to all offenses under Title 40 of the O.C.G.A. However, it does not apply to any violation where a license may be suspended for a first offense. This includes using a motor vehicle in fleeing or attempting to elude, hit and run, racing, or driving with a suspended license. O.C.G.A. § 17-6-11(b)(1)

As stated previously, many courts and clerks have not been following this law correctly. Judges have been issuing bench warrants and DDS has been suspending licenses without giving the proper mailed noticed that this statute requires. If your license suspended without notice after missing a court date, contact us immediately!

What Can An Attorney Do To Help Me If I Missed My Court Date?

To begin with, in cases where a person could have paid the ticket, many times a Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyer can resolve the Failure to Appear (FTA) without your active participation.  After resolving the FTA, your attorney can then negotiate to settle your case or put it on the calendar for trial.

For out-of-state clients, your Georgia Traffic Ticket Attorney may be able to make all appearances on your behalf, saving you a trip to court.  Once the FTA is resolved, the lawyer will negotiate a "plea in absentia" with the prosecutor.  This plea will allow the final court date to be waived without the appearance of the accused.  For out-of-state clients, this is a tremendous benefit.   This however, can only be worked out if the FTA is first resolved.

In cases that require a mandatory court appearance, the first step is to get the bench warranted lifted before you are arrested.  Once the bench warrant issue is resolved, your attorney can begin working on the case.  If the charge is DUI, there are many steps necessary to get a good resolution.  If you read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of this website, it is a good place to start looking for answers.

How Is A Suspended License Resolved After Missing Court Or Failing to Pay a Traffic Citation?

As with minor traffic citations, if you missed court on a ticket that required a mandatory appearance, the court will also suspend your license.  Your license will not be reinstated automatically if you fail to pay a minor traffic ticket or fail to appear in court on a misdemeanor traffic offense.

People make this mistake all the time and then get arrested for driving on a suspended license.  You must take active steps to reinstate your license after the State has suspended it for a failure to appear.  If the following steps are not followed, your license will remain suspended FOREVER:

In Georgia, you need the following documentation to reinstate your license or privilege to drive:

(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 showing that you satisfied the FTA; and

(3) a "Fail Safe" letter, which states that your arrest warrant has been canceled. This document prevents any issues from arising when you to drive to DDS to turn in the Form 912.

Explaining The Privilege to Drive In Georgia:

The issue about privilege to drive in Georgia confuses people.  Georgia cannot suspend the license of an out-of-state driver.  Georgia can suspend the privilege to drive in our state.  The Department of Driver Services will issue you an “agency reference number” in lieu of a license.   If you are pulled over without reinstating the privilege, you will be criminally charged with driving on a suspended license.

As mentioned above, most states will honor a Georgia suspension.  As a result you will be facing both the criminal charge in Georgia and a driver's license suspension in your home state.  That is why it's important to take both minor traffic offenses and misdemeanor traffic offenses seriously.

We Are Here to Help:

As you can see, failing to appear for court is extremely serious, as it can lead to a warrant for your arrest and the suspension of your driver's license. Call an Atlanta Traffic Ticket Attorney today! Our office is available 24/7. We are here when you need us most.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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