If you missed your court date for either a criminal or traffic citation, you are in failure to appear status and you want to make sure that you clear up any bench warrant or FTA license suspension. Typically, this will require that you schedule an appearance in front of a judge at a Failure to Appear (FTA) hearing.
You will have to schedule the FTA hearing on your own, the court will not automatically schedule it. You can schedule this hearing on a limited basis Monday – Friday. You should contact the court at (404) 658-6940 for more information and to make sure your FTA hearing can be scheduled.
Currently Atlanta Municipal Court has one Judge assigned to handle the majority of FTA cases. You can go to 150 Garnett Street at 7:00 AM and sign up to be added to that Judge’s FTA calendar later that morning. Be prepared to pay a $100.00 FTA fee in addition to any fines you may incur if you plead guilty to the underlying offense.
While many people do hire an attorney to handle the FTA and traffic ticket, most cases can be resolved without an attorney. For those choosing to handle the FTA without an attorney, be prepared to be patient! It can take quite a while to resolve your case. Keep your schedule open so that you will not have to worry about missing a critical appointment later that day. One common mistake people make is to assume their case will only take an hour or two. The Municipal Court of Atlanta is an exceptionally busy court and it is not uncommon for some traffic and FTA calendars to take many hours to complete.
You should also spend time researching the underlying charge – I.e., the original infraction that you were cited for. It is fairly typical for the prosecutor to expect you to be prepared to make a final decision about the case at the FTA calendar. The prosecutor will not ordinarily be inclined to have a detailed discussion with you about your reservations regarding the lawfulness or fairness of your original citation.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they represent themselves is to assume that he or she understands what the prosecutor will think is relevant to the ticket. As a result, drivers commonly waste the few precious moments they have with the prosecutor explaining (often in excruciating detail) facts that wholly irrelevant to the prosecutor’s analysis of the case.
For instance, many drivers believe that if they have a clean driving record, this should mean that they will be treated with more leniency. First of all, the prosecutor will already know if you have clean driving record. Don’t waste your time with the prosecutor discussing your driving history – or even worse, trying to explain the circumstances of prior tickets. And while many prosecutors will be inclined to rely on a clean driving record to mitigate some consequences of the charge, it will often not work to completely absolve the driver.
Please note that if you appear in court the Traffic Violation Bureau (TVB) fine listed may not apply. However, the judge may order a fine amount which may be more or less than the TVB fine amount paid prior to court. Also, please note that the judge may require your FTA penalty to be paid prior to your FTA court appearance. As a result, you may need to make sure you have adequate funds available prior to scheduling your FTA hearing.
If you sill have questions or feel the need to speak with an attorney experienced with the Atlanta criminal and traffic courts give me a call to schedule a free consultation.