FTA (Failure to Appear) Status: What Can Happen and What to Do About It
As a rule of thumb, when you are summoned to court for ANY felony, misdemeanor or traffic charge, you MUST appear in court.
This is because, at your court date, the judge will go through the calendar (the list of people who are scheduled to appear before the court) like attendance at school. If your name is called and you (or your attorney) are not there to make an announcement to the court, the prosecutor will ask the judge to issue a bench warrant and an order forfeiting your bond. Most times, the judge will do just that—issue the bench warrant and sign a bond forfeiture order.
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest. While it won’t get you on America’s Most Wanted List, it will mean that your name will be entered into a nationwide police database and available to law enforcement until it is resolved.
So, if you interact with police thereafter and they run your name through their database, they will see the warrant for your arrest and you will be taken into custody (and transported to the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued).
A bond forfeiture order is only issued when a person was released from jail on bail and has failed to appear at a subsequent court date. In this situation, the bondsmen are ordered to put up the outstanding bond amount and all of that money is forfeited to the property of the jurisdiction overseeing the case.
If that isn’t bad enough… when you miss a court date and the judge issues a bench warrant for you, DDS will IMMEDIATELY suspend your license and notify you at the address listed on your license. So, make sure you update your address with DDS!
If you are living on the wild side and driving on your suspended license, you run the risk of being stopped by police for a new traffic offense. If that happens, you will be arrested on the bench warrant, cited for the new traffic offense, and also charged with Driving with a Suspended License. Driving with a suspended license is a charge that is punishable by a maximum of 12 months in custody, $1000 fine, and an additional license suspension.
Because bench warrants can cause a variety of unanticipated legal trouble, it is wise to consult with one of our attorneys to understand your options.
But, in the meantime, here is my advice to you:
1. If you know you missed a court date and have not been arrested yet…
I suggest you immediately call the clerk of court in the jurisdiction where you missed court and ask them how you can lift the bench warrant. Some courts will allow you to pay a fee to lift the bench warrant and get a new court date. Other courts will require you to appear before judge on a special “failure to appear” calendar, at which time you will either have to 1) Plead guilty to charges and take whatever deal the State is offering or 2) Get taken into custody on the bench warrant be booked in (mugshot again) and have to bail out again, and then fight the charges later on.
2. If you are worried that your license may be suspended…
Check the status online at: https://online.dds.ga.gov/dlstatus/default.aspx
3. If you have changed your address since your case was bound over from a municipality like Sandy Springs or City of Atlanta, YOU MUST UPDATE YOUR ADDRESS WITH THE FULTON COUNTY STATE COURT CLERK!!!
If you do not update your address, they will send notice to the address provided at the time the case was in the municipality. The State Court Clerk is located in Room J-150 of the 160 Pryor Building of the Fulton County Courthouse.
Finally, if you are unable to get the warrant lifted then it is important to turn yourself in as soon as possible. Outstanding warrants can only be resolved by the Judge withdrawing the warrant OR by execution of the warrant (turning yourself in).
Our lawyers are trained to handle difficult criminal procedure questions. At WSSPC our goal is to zealously represent each and every one of our clients. If you have found yourself with a bench warrant please contact our office immediately at 404-581-0999 or visit our website at www.peachstatelawyer.com for more information.