If you missed your court date for either a criminal or traffic citation, you are in failure to appear status. Once this happens, you need to clear up any bench warrant or FTA license suspension the court may have issued. Typically, you are required to schedule an appearance in front of a judge at a Failure to Appear (FTA) hearing.
Scheduling an FTA Hearing
The court does not automatically schedule an FTA hearing, so this is something that you will have to do on your own. Spaces on the calendar are available on a limited basis. You should contact the court at (404) 658-6940 for more information and to make sure you can set up your FTA hearing.
Currently, Atlanta Municipal Court has one judge assigned to handle the majority of these cases. On most mornings court is open, you can go to 150 Garnett Street at 7:00 AM and sign up to be added to the judge’s FTA calendar later that morning.
What to Expect
While many people hire an attorney to handle the FTA and traffic ticket, most cases can be resolved without one. If you opt to manage your case on your own, be prepared to be patient! It can take a while to resolve. One common mistake people make is to assume it will only take an hour or two. But the Municipal Court of Atlanta is exceptionally busy, and it is common for some traffic and FTA calendars to take hours to complete. So keep your schedule open that day.
Another common mistake you might mistake when representing yourself is assuming that you understand what the prosecutor thinks is relevant to the ticket. Drivers commonly waste the few precious moments they have with the prosecutor explaining (often in excruciating detail) facts that are irrelevant to the prosecutor’s analysis of the case.
For instance, many drivers believe that the court will treat them with more leniency if they have a clean driving history. However, the prosecutor is already aware of your record. So do not waste your time discussing your driving history – or even worse, trying to explain the circumstances of previous tickets. Additionally, while some prosecutors are inclined to rely on a clean driving record to mitigate some consequences, it usually does not completely absolve you from the charge.
It is also wise to research the underlying charge before going to the hearing. Prosecutors typically expect you to prepare to make a final decision about the case at the FTA calendar. Ordinarily, they are not inclined to discuss your reservations regarding the lawfulness or fairness of your original citation in great detail.
Lastly, you should know that if you appear in court the Traffic Violation Bureau (TVB) fine may not apply. However, the judge may order a fee amount that may be more or less than the TVB fine paid before you went to court. The judge also may require you to pay your FTA penalty prior to your court appearance. As a result, you may need to make sure you have adequate funds available before scheduling your FTA hearing.
If you still have questions or want to speak with an attorney experienced with the Atlanta criminal and traffic courts, schedule a free consultation with EHG Law Firm.