Articles Posted in FAILURE TO APPEAR

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1_lawyer_trial_faster_394255.jpgRemember Billy from Part 1? He was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession two years ago. It was his first offense and he did not hire an attorney. He plead guilty under Georgia’s conditional discharge drug first offender law when he might have been able to take advantage of, and participate in, a pretrial diversion program. He was recently arrested again for the same offense and won’t be able to take advantage of either one. Billy’s situation illustrates the importance of people facing criminal charges to hire or consult with an attorney, especially first time offenders.

Now meet Brenda. Brenda was pulled over in Cobb County and received a ticket for driving with an expired tag and she was given a date to appear in court. Before she was able to renew her tag, she was pulled over again in Dekalb County and received the same citation. Brenda’s Dekalb Recorders Court date was prior to her required appearance in Cobb County, so she appeared in Dekalb Recorders Court and disposed of her case. Brenda made a critical error, however. Without speaking to a lawyer, she thought that since she renewed her tag and her case was closed in dekalb that she did not have to go to court in Cobb. She was very wrong.
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checkpoint arrestPeople fail to appear in court for a multitude of different reasons. This is one of the top five most common questions I get on a weekly basis. A Failure to Appear (FTA) in court can have potentially devastating consequences if you do not do something quickly and aggressively to remedy the issue.

Probably the most important thing to know is that when a person fails to appear in court, judges will generally issue bench warrants for a person’s arrest, and the court notifies the Georgia Department of Drivers Services (DDS) and the person’s driver’s license is suspended. Time is of the essence in these situations because the procedure from DDS notification to license suspension happens fairly quickly. Once your license is suspended, if you are thereafter pulled over for any reason, you WILL BE arrested and taken to jail. Driving on a suspended license is no laughing matter in Georgia. The minimum sentence upon conviction carries with it a five hundred dollar ($500.00) fine, two days in jail, and up to 12 months of probation. Furthermore, you will suffer an additional six-month suspension of your license. All of this on top of the offense on which you originally failed to appear. But with swift action this can possibly be avoided, or in the case where a person’s license is already suspended, steps can be taken to speed up the process leading towards license reinstatement.

FTAs never go away until a judge sets them aside with a court order. Although sometimes, in cases of FTAs in Municipal Courts on traffic violations, a person will be allowed to pay the fine on the old citation, thereby setting aside the FTA by closing the case. The court clerk will then send a “clearance letter” to the DDS. But whether undetected, unremembered, or simply just ignored, they lurk in the background of people’s lives.
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