What Happens if You Miss Your Court Date in Georgia?
Unlike many other appointments in our life, court appearances are not based on your schedule. Instead, they are based on the court's schedule with little regard for your personal life. Although it may be an inconvenience to get out of work or arrange childcare, it is of the utmost importance to comply with scheduled court appearances.
Failure to appear for a scheduled court appearance in Georgia can be a criminal offense. In addition, missing a court appearance in Georgia can escalate your current charges and negatively influence a judge's opinion of you. If you have missed a court appearance and have a bench warrant out for your arrest, our attorneys can help. We understand that missing court may have been unintentional and you are not trying to avoid the court. Our Georgia Failure to Appear Lawyers have decades of experience and can quickly and smoothly handle your failure to appear (FTA) and resolve the original charge. Call now for a free case evaluation.
What is the Failure to Appear Law in Georgia?
Failure to appear is covered under O.C.G.A. § 40-13-63:
The willful failure of any person to appear in accordance with the written promise contained on the citation and complaint and served upon such person shall constitute an offense which shall be punishable by a fine in an amount not to exceed $200.00 or by confinement in jail for a period not to exceed three days.
While a fine and possibly jail time may not seem to be major consequences, this tacked onto the original offense will cause problems for you. Additionally, missing a court date for some offenses will result in an automatic license suspension.
If your failure to appear was due to an emergency, that information may be presented once you appear before the judge. The judge may consider any potential mitigating circumstances for missing court such as hospitalization or jail at the time of the original court date. Documentation that demonstrates why you missed court will be required.
Georgia Law on Notice After Missing a Court Date
For traffic citations in Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 17-6-11 details that if a person fails to appear for court, the clerk of court must notify the accused by mail of their failure to appear before issuing a bench warrant. This notice will allow the accused 30 days to dispose of their charges or waive arraignment and plead not guilty. If the accused has not resolved their charges at the end of the 30 day period, then the clerk of court will notify DDS within 5 days. DDS will then suspend the accused driver's license number until notified that the charge 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)
While this is a relatively newer law, 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 you missed a court date in Georgia and have found your license suspended without notice, contact us immediately!
Missed Court Date for a Traffic Ticket in Georgia
Most traffic tickets can be paid before a person's court date. They can generally be paid in person, by mail, over the phone, or online. If you fail to pay your traffic ticket or appear in court, it is likely that your Georgia driver's license will be suspended. As stated previously, the clerk is required to send a notice by mail of your failure to appear for court. However, this does not always happen so the clerk's office may notify the Department of Driver Services (DDS) that you missed a court date. Then DDS will mail you a notice indicating that your license will be suspended because of the missed court date. This is another reason why it is critical to have the correct mailing address on your license or else your license may be suspended without your knowledge.
For out of state driver's, you may still find that your license has been suspended even if you missed a court appearance in Georgia. If your license is suspended in Georgia, they will notify your home state of the suspension. Most states will honor the suspension and suspend the license of the out-of-state driver.
It is important to remember that even though you can pay the ticket and avoid going to court, that does not necessarily mean you are getting the best outcome. We recommend that you hire one of our Traffic Ticket Lawyers and see how they can help your case.Our experience with negotiating tickets can lead to a better result.
Whether you are a resident of Georgia or another state, it is critical to pay the fine or attend court for your traffic ticket. However, if you inadvertently missed your court date in Georgia, we can still help you!
Missed Court Date for a Misdemeanor Traffic Offense in Georgia
Unlike traffic tickets where you do not have to appear in court, most serious traffic offenses require a court appearance. They generally are not resolved by merely paying a fine. You are required to appear in court when charged with DUI, driving on a suspended license, aggressive driving, reckless driving, racing, unlawful passing of a school bus, fleeing or attempting to elude, hit-and-run, possession of marijuana, and many other related crimes. Failure to appear for one of these charges will result in a suspension of your driver's license and a bench warrant for your arrest.
Bench warrants are issued by a judge when a person fails to appear for court. Bench warrants differ from arrest warrants because they do not usually come with the police knocking on your door. Instead, your name goes into a statewide computer system that law enforcement uses. If you are stopped for a traffic violation or any other reason, the officer will be able to see the warrant, and you will be taken into custody.
Getting arrested on a bench warrant means that you will likely be incarcerated until your court date or until you can post bail. However, you could also be imprisoned without bail.
If you missed a court date in Atlanta or anywhere else in Georgia and a bench warrant is issued for your arrest, it is best to handle the warrant directly. By hiring an Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer, we will take an active approach to resolve your case with the court and make sure your rights are protected. After the bench warrant issue is resolved, then the attorney can start working on your case.
Can an Attorney Help if I Missed My Court Date in Georgia?
Yes! Every situation is different, but our office is here when you need us most. Failing to appear for court is a serious charge and one that leads to punishments.
If you missed court when it was for a ticket that could have been paid, our Georgia Failure to Appeal Lawyers have had great success with resolving it without your active participation. We work with the prosecutor to resolve the Failure to Appear (FTA) by either getting your case rescheduled for a different day or settling the case outside of court.
More serious charges are not resolved as easily but can still be settled. We frequently handle FTA cases and are prepared to help you resolve your missed court appearance as well as obtain an excellent outcome for the original offense.
Normally there is a $100.00 FTA fee that is imposed and must be paid prior to your case being placed back on the calendar.
What Happens If I Am on Probation and Missed My Court Date?
Failing to appear in court while on probation is considered a violation of your probation. Probation violations are punished in various ways. They can include but are not limited to:
- Loss of probation and a requirement to serve the remainder of the sentence in prison
- Additional fines
- Mandatory community service
- Stricter terms placed on probation
If you find yourself in legal trouble because of a skipped court date in Georgia, you need to contact us now. We will help minimize the repercussions and advise you on how to proceed with your case.
Consequences of Failing to Appear for Court in Georgia
Not paying the fine on time or missing court comes with serious implications. The penalties will range depending on if the original charge was a misdemeanor or a felony and whether the charge involved a traffic citation. If a court appearance was required, a failure to appear would result in a license suspension. Simply paying the fine will not make the suspension go away. This is a common mistake, and we have many clients who were arrested for driving on a suspended license without knowing.
If your license was suspended for failing to appear, you must follow specific steps in order to get your license reinstated. This happens in cases such as DUI, reckless driving, aggressive driving, etc. If you do not, then your license will be suspended even though your case is over. Once you pay the $100 FTA fee, you then receive three documents that must be submitted to DDS. To reinstate your Georgia license, you must:
- Submit a Form 912 FTA to the Georgia DDS,
- Submit a copy of the receipt demonstrating that you resolved the FTA; and
- Submit a “Fail Safe” letter stating your arrest warrant has been canceled. This is proof that the warrant has been lifted, so an officer does not try to arrest you once you appear.
- Pay the $210 fee to get your license reinstated.
Having a suspended license can be a real hardship for those with a commercial driver's license (CDL) as well as for regular citizens. If you drive for your job, call us immediately so we can help save your license and your career.
We understand that the idea of going to court and appearing before a judge can be frightening. However, missing your court date will not change the situation and can actually make it worse. If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, no matter how minor or severe, contact a Georgia Criminal Attorney today. Call us if you have an upcoming court appearance of if you have missed your court date in Georgia already. Our lawyers will thoroughly assess your case and present you with the defense you need during this difficult time. We guarantee that you will receive sound advice and prepare you for court, which will make you less likely to miss your court date in Georgia.
Whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in Georgia, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney and attend your court dates. You will suffer enhanced consequences by missing your Georgia court date. Our lawyers have your best interest in mind and will give you the representation needed to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.