By Erin Gerstenzang

When you are involved in a traffic accident in Atlanta, the investigating agency (often Atlanta Police Department) will issue a ticket to both drivers.  If no one has been seriously injured, very few measurements, or technical procedures are involved in the accident investigation.  A report is generated that includes a diagram (not drawn to scale) and a summary of what the drivers reported.

You may disagree with the conclusions in the accident report.  In fact, it is common for both drivers to disagree with the investigating officer’s report.  This can be quite frustrating because insurance companies often rely, at least in part, on that report.

When you challenge an accident ticket in Atlanta Municipal Court, you will be assigned to a Judge who may, or may not decide to schedule your bench trial on the first appearance.  Unless you are familiar with each Judge and their regular scheduling practices you likely will not know whether this will happen until you appear.

The primary witness in many accident cases is the other driver.  You may assume that the officer who issued the traffic ticket will have to appear.  This is not necessarily the case.  Unless the officer actually witnessed the driving, he may not be needed in order for the prosecutor to go forward with the case.  However, the prosecutor will need a witness.  If the other driver is not there, it may be a good opportunity to move forward with the trial.  Depending on the Judge and the facts of your case, you could be successful.  Keep in mind though, that the prosecutor can always request a reset to get the witness to court.

If you would like to have the officer present, you can secure his/her presence by serving him/her with a subpoena.  The Clerk’s office at the court can provide you with such a subpoena, but you will need set that up in advance of your court date.

If you truly want to contest your ticket, you would be best served to consult an attorney.  You may be eligible for a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford to hire your own.  Almost all offenses are punishable by some jail sentence, and you should proceed with extreme caution before electing to go forward with trial.