By Erin Gerstenzang

shutterstock_112401383It is possible to win a traffic ticket trial in Atlanta.  However, you do not want to start a trial without researching your options well in advance.  The first thing you should know is that for most traffic offenses, including speeding tickets and stop sign violations, it is possible (however not likely) that you could be facing up to 12 months in jail if you are convicted.  If you are unfamiliar with the sentencing practices of your Judge, or not sure about your driving history, you may want to consult an attorney about what could happen after the trial if the Judge convicts you.

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shutterstock_117289042Many people assume that if your officer is not present at your first court date, then your ticket will be automatically dismissed.  This is rarely true in Atlanta.  For the most part, your first appearance is your arraignment, which is an opportunity for you to tell the Judge and prosecutor whether you intend to enter a plea of guilty, or not guilty.  If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will often have the option (for most traffic offenses) of choosing a bench trial (judge trial) or a jury trial.  If you choose a jury trial, your case will be transferred to Fulton County State Court (or in some instances DeKalb County State Court if your stop was in DeKalb County) for a jury trial.

shutterstock_184839455If you request a bench trial, you will be prompted to sign a waiver of jury trial.  If you sign this form, you are waiving your right to transfer your case to Fulton County State Court (or DeKalb State Court).  You may want to familiarize yourself with your Judge’s sentencing practices before waiving your right to transfer the case to State Court.

Once you have submitted your waiver of a jury trial, you will likely be given a trial date.  This will be the date that the witness will have to appear for.  In most standard traffic stops the witness is the police officer.  If the officer is not present at that date, then the Judge may grant your motion to dismiss the ticket.  Keep in mind however that the Judge could decide to reset your case to a future trial date in order to give the prosecutor another opportunity to get the witness to court.

shutterstock_225243235If the consequences of a speeding ticket are critical to you, such as you are a commercial driver with a CDL or you are worried about a license suspension, you should contact me to discuss your options.I am an experienced Atlanta criminal defense attorney. It is very dangerous to attempt to navigate the intricacies of a bench or jury trial without first consulting a professional.