It could happen to anyone. You receive a traffic ticket and even though you planned, with the best intentions, to attend court, it never makes it to your calendar. The ticket gets misplaced. The court date comes and goes and you are otherwise blissfully unaware of the process that is now underway to suspend your license and possibly result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest! All the while, the entire incident has completely slipped your mind. That is until you receive a letter from the Department of Driver Services (“DDS”) notifying you that your license has been suspended (or is about to be suspended) due to the FTA issued by the traffic court.
An even worse scenario is the one where you don’t see the notice from DDS, and you are notified of the bench warrant and suspension by a police officer on the side of the road who writes you a ticket for driving on a suspended license and takes you to jail on the new charge. You won’t be able to bond out of jail however until you figure out a way to lift the bench warrant that the Judge had issued when you missed your first court date.
An innocent, and a seemingly common mistake can lead to highly disruptive and wildly unexpected consequences! This sequence of events is far more common than most people would normally suspect. You are not alone if you believe that license suspension may seem like an unnecessarily harsh consequence for someone who merely inadvertently misses a traffic court appearance. Although it may be harsh, it is an extremely cost-effective method for getting those people who do initially miss court, to return to eventually return to court to handle the initial citation. As a result, almost all traffic courts impose this penalty for missed court dates.
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Once you are aware of the FTA and/or bench warrant, it may be a relatively simple matter of communicating with the issuing court, paying an FTA fine and getting the appropriate paperwork (indicating the court’s removal of the FTA suspension) to DDS in order to lift the suspension. The process will vary from court-to-court and some courts will require you to physically appear before the Judge – especially if you want to handle it yourself, without the assistance of an attorney. One of the benefits of hiring an attorney is that in many instances, the attorney can have the FTA and/or bench warrant lifted without requiring you to also appear in court. One of the more permanent consequences of this type of suspension is that the FTA License Suspension will stay listed on your driving history. For many drivers, this should not have significant adverse consequences. However, for those whose occupation is related to driving, this could create a real problem for your employer. In some settings, this kind of suspension can lead to termination when the employer discovers it either through employee-disclosure or simply through a routine driver’s history background check.
If you are facing an FTA suspension and are unsure as to what your next steps should be, contact an attorney today to find out what options may be available to you.
Increasingly there are a number of private companies that are posting arrest photos, or mug shots, of individuals charged with a crime. Although many of these websites offer to remove the photo for a fee, as soon as it is taken down, it appears on another website. Contact your attorney for advice about how to communicate with these companies.
When a Georgia police officer takes your license after arresting you for DUI, you may want to get a Georgia ID card for identification purposes. The Georgia ID card looks nearly identical to the license and can be used for the same identification purposes as any other form of Government ID.
If you have to appear in person, keep in mind that they are not normally open on Mondays. Before heading to your local Department of Driver Services branch, you should call ahead to make sure you have all the required documentation with you. Expect longer delays on days immediately following a holiday.
Choosing the right attorney to defend your Georgia DUI is critical. For many people, this is the first time you have ever had to hire a criminal defense attorney. As you wade through the hundreds of options online, it can start to feel very overwhelming trying to determine which attorney is right for you. There are three critical areas of experience to focus on when choosing your attorney.
The first, is your attorney’s level of skill and knowledge in the field of DUI defense. When you are interviewing attorneys, you want to make sure that the person you are speaking with is highly skilled in the area of DUI defense. Ask your attorney what percentage of their practice is devoted to DUI defense. Inquire as to whether your attorney is a recognized national speaker, who teaches other DUI defense attorneys. You can’t always know their level of skill and experience until you see them in the courtroom, but asking about their experience teaching other attorneys is a reliable way to objectively measure whether your attorney’s level of skill is as advanced as it may have been advertised.
Second, find out if your attorney regularly practices in your court. You may be speaking with a highly qualified attorney, but if he does not regularly appear in your court, he may not be able to fight for you as effectively as a qualified attorney who is familiar with that court. Although the laws are applied similarly throughout Georgia, the personalities that comprise each court system, including the prosecutors, judges and jurors vary dramatically. Intimate knowledge of those personalities and court practices will improve the quality of your defense. Make sure your attorney is a regular practitioner in your court.
Finally, when you meet with attorneys, it is critical that you are evaluating the trustworthiness of the person you are speaking with. You will have to rely upon the advice of your attorney when making some of the most difficult decisions you have ever had to make in your entire life. The consequences of your decisions will affect you, your future, and your family. If you do not trust that your attorney will always have your best interests in mind, then you do not have the right attorney. As attorneys, we are trained to represent individuals zealously and always put your best interests above all others. Make sure the attorney you are hiring can and will do just that.