Bench warrant update

July 2022 Update to Bench Warrants in Georgia: What You Need to Know

Whether you have received a traffic citation or have pending criminal charges in a Georgia court, failing to appear in court can have significant consequences. These consequences may include:

  • Arrest on a bench warrant,
  • Driver’s License Suspension,
  • Jail for up to 3 days or a fine of up to $200.

What is a Bench Warrant?

Per O.C.G.A. § 17-7-90, a Georgia judge may issue a bench warrant for a person’s arrest when that person fails to appear in court after receiving notice of court. What is notice? Under Georgia law, you have received “notice” if:

  • Someone (judge, court staff, or someone else) told you your next court date in open court,
  • A notice was mailed to the person’s last known address containing the court date, time, and location, or
  • You receive notice of an impending court date personally, in writing, by a court official or an officer of the court.

If a Georgia judge issues a bench warrant, all law enforcement officers within the jurisdiction are required to execute the warrant. If they come into contact with a person with a bench warrant, they must arrest them. That means that if, for example, you are pulled over speeding while you have an active bench warrant, the officer will take you into custody. 

A person arrested on a bench warrant must stay in jail until they make bail.

Possible License Suspension Resulting from an FTA

DDS Form 912

O.C.G.A. § 40-5-56 provides legal grounds for the suspension of the driver’s license of any individual who fails to appear in court in Georgia or in another state for a traffic violation (not including parking tickets). 

Until July 1, 2022, license suspension pursuant to an FTA was mandatory. Courts were required to inform the Department of Driver Services of the suspension, and DDS was required to suspend the license.

Now, judges have discretion. They may choose not to send a record of the FTA to DDS. If the court declines to send notice of the FTA to DDS, the person’s license will not be suspended.

If a court does decide to submit notice of the FTA to DDS, it must first send you notice. It must wait 30 days before submitting notice of the FTA to DDS. 

After DDS receives notice from the court, it will give you 28 days to resolve the FTA before imposing the license suspension. The Department of Driver Services must send notice of the suspension via certified mail. If you continue to drive after your license is suspended, you may be arrested for Driving on a Suspended License.

The suspension pursuant to an FTA shall last until:

  • DDS receives notice from the court that the charges have been resolved, OR
  • The court has ordered the reinstatement of your driver’s license.

After one of these conditions has been met, your license can be reinstated. To reinstate, you must generally pay a reinstatement fee. However, judges may waive this fee.

Georgia traffic citations must include language informing Georgia drivers of the possibility of suspension. The language included in the traffic citation is sufficient notice of suspension under Georgia law. 

Jail Time or Fine

O.C.G.A. § 40-13-63 provides a legal penalty for the “willful failure of any person to appear following the written promise contained on the citation and complaint and served upon such person.” This penalty may result in a fine not to exceed $200 or a period of confinement in jail not to exceed three (3) days.

Do I Need an Attorney for an FTA?

If you think you might have an FTA due to missing a court date for a traffic or other offense, you shouldn’t panic. You should call a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Most of the time, your lawyer can resolve both the FTA and the underlying offense on the same court date. You should never try to handle your case alone. Don’t run the risk of being arrested or having your license suspended. Click here to get in touch today.

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