What Does “FTA” Mean For Traffic Tickets in GA

What Does “FTA” Mean For Traffic Tickets in GA? And What Does FTA Mean in Court?

“FTA” stands for “Failure to Appear” – meaning that you did not show up to your required court date for your traffic ticket here in the lovely state of Georgia.

Read on to find out more details about failure to appear status, how to avoid it, what to do if you have it, and best practices all around for FTAs in Georgia.

What is a Failure to Appear?

First, we’ll define what an FTA is.

A Failure to Appear (FTA) in Georgia is a legal term that describes the situation when an individual does not show up for a scheduled court date, typically related to a traffic citation.

If you don’t show up, then the court will mark your file accordingly, and you will not be able to resolve such a case with a failure to appear until court lifts or cancels out your consequence.

And according to Georgia law, under O.C.G.A §40-13-63, an FTA can lead to serious consequences, including the suspension of your driving privileges – and even jail time.

If you’ve received a traffic ticket, it’s crucial to either pay the fine or appear in court on the assigned date to avoid being placed in failure to appear status.

Ignoring or forgetting about the ticket can exacerbate the situation, potentially leading to additional fines, increased insurance rates, and even a warrant for your arrest (known as an FTA warrant or a Bench Warrant).

Okay, so I’ve got a traffic ticket – how do I NOT get an FTA?

Excellent question, my friend.

The way to make sure you don’t get into Failure to Appear status is to read your ticket immediately after you get it. Don’t avoid it and shove it off for later in the junk drawer of your kitchen.

It may be painful or embarrassing or downright aggravating in the moment – but reading it and facing it is the only way to know when your court date is, and the only way to make sure you show up to the date. If you put it in your calendar, take the day off work, and plan around it, chances are you’ll go and you won’t get an FTA.

If you live out of state or if your work schedule won’t allow you to go to your court date, your best bet is to talk to a local attorney who often has cases in that courthouse and see if it’s possible for them to appear for you – which, if so, will also only help you not get an FTA.

It’s best practice to face the traffic ticket, mark your calendar, and take whatever steps you can to be there or contact a lawyer to see if they can attend for you.

Wish I had read your post beforehand, because I already have an FTA – what am I up against here?

Don’t worry – even if you are already in failure to appear status with your traffic ticket, there’s still hope.

Check your license status

First step is to check the status of your driver’s license. If you’re a Georgia resident, go to the DDS (Department of Driver Services – which is Georgia’s version of the DMV) website and enter your driver’s license to make sure it’s still valid: https://dds.drives.ga.gov/_/

And if you’re an out-of-state driver, make sure you check your license status with your home state, since Georgia has been known to report any failure to appear events to other states, and the home state will also suspend your driver’s license.

Administrative suspension of driver’s license

Why do you need to check your license status?

Because under GA law, one of the consequences for failing to appear for your court date is what’s called an administrative suspension of your license.

You may or may not get notice in the mail, but it may be too late by the time you get the letter – or, if your address isn’t updated, you may not get it at all.

Then, if you drive and your license is suspended, and if you get pulled over, not only will you have an additional traffic violation you have to deal with, but most cops will put you in jail, since it’s a jailable offense.

So be proactive and check your valid license status, if you know you’ve missed a court date and could possibly have a failure to appear.

Warrant for your arrest

Another worse consequence of failing to appear is getting a warrant issued for your arrest – called an FTA warrant or a bench warrant.

This happens if you’ve missed more than one court date or if your license is already suspended for another reason when you miss that first court date.

This means that at any time a police officer could stop you and take you into custody – all because you didn’t go to a court date for your traffic ticket.

Contact the courthouse

Once you know the status of your license and if you have a warrant out or not for your arrest, the next step is to call the courthouse and find out how to get on a new court calendar, to have the failure to appear status and/or warrant lifted, and continue with your case.

Some courts will let you do this on the phone, others will have you come in as a walk-in. It’s up to the individual court clerk or judge. Most require you to pay a fee to lift your failure to appear status and/or the bench warrant.

Consider getting a lawyer

Best practice is to hire a criminal defense lawyer who focuses on traffic tickets, since they’ll be able to handle the rescheduling of your originally missed court date for you – and they can argue on your behalf as to why the court shouldn’t give you any extra charges for missing that first court date.

Also, if your license does go into suspension, your lawyer can guide you through the process of getting it back or sometimes even lifting the suspension altogether, depending on the type of case.

And, if you do have a warrant for your arrest, your lawyer can try to get it lifted before you’re picked up, or, if not, they can at least help you schedule a time to turn yourself in and how to bond out, to take up the least amount of time out of your busy life as possible.

Is there a difference between an FTA in a city court and a county court in Georgia?

The main difference is the speed at which your license is suspended or your warrant is issued in a case – it depends on how busy the city (aka municipal) or county court is, and how often they have court.

But the main way to deal with a failure to appear (FTA) remains the same – you have to call and find out what the local procedure is to clear up your FTA status and deal with the underlying traffic ticket.

Do I need a criminal defense attorney for this?

While you don’t have to have an attorney for an FTA, because you could go to jail if you don’t handle it properly, we definitely recommend that you contact and hire a local attorney.

Make sure to partner with someone who is familiar with the process in your particular courthouse to guide you through it swiftly and with the least amount of pain possible.

Why is it so serious? Traffic citations are criminal charges in Georgia

Now you may be wondering: Why is this failure to appear thing so serious? Why would my license get suspended or even get arrested for simply missing a court date? Why do I need a ‘criminal defense attorney’ for something like a traffic ticket.

Well, let’s take a look – the short answer is that all traffic tickets in Georgia are “crimes”.

Georgia legal status of traffic citations

Traffic citations in Georgia carry a significant weight due to the state’s legal framework, which classifies all traffic violations as misdemeanors at a minimum.


Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are less serious than felonies but can still result in substantial fines, probation, or even jail time.

If you get arrested on a traffic ticket, you’ll get a criminal record showing your misdemeanor.

Even if you don’t get arrested but you plead guilty or get convicted of the citation, you’ll still have a permanent traffic record. And each line item will be, at minimum, a misdemeanor – technically making you a criminal in the eyes of the law.

Crazy, right?

This classification by Georgia state law underscores the seriousness of traffic violations and the importance of addressing them promptly and appropriately.


Now some traffic violations in Georgia, such as habitual violations or vehicular homicide, are actually classified by law as felonies.

Felonies are the most serious type of crime and can result in severe penalties, including heavy fines, extended probation periods, and lengthy prison sentences.

The categorization of some traffic violations as felonies highlights the potential gravity of these offenses and the severe repercussions that can follow.

If you find yourself with a felony-level traffic ticket AND a failure to appear – we highly recommend contacting a local criminal defense attorney that focuses on serious traffic crimes to provide you with legal assistance, if you decide you need it.

FTA consequences

With that background, we can now see how the severity of traffic citations in Georgia is further emphasized by the legal consequences that can ensue if you fail to appear in court for your traffic ticket.

As we found out above, under Georgia law, failure to appear can lead to the suspension of your driver’s license or even an arrest warrant being issued.

Our “why” is now answered – this seemingly severe response to missing a court date is because the court views a failure to appear as a disregard for the legal process, which can escalate the situation and compound the penalties.

Therefore, it’s crucial to either pay the fine or appear in court to address your traffic citation directly to avoid these serious outcomes.

And when in doubt – see out a great criminal defense attorney to assess your tickets and situation and see what’s at stake. And, how they can best help.

How do I prepare for court with an FTA?

Now if you’re in this boat, you may have these questions running around in your mind about your failure to appear: ‘how do I prepare for court?’ ‘is the judge scary?’ ‘what do I say or not say?’

Well, the first thing to know is that the court does not like for you to make excuses.

If you missed court, don’t try to come up with a crazy defense – just be honest, own that you were wrong, and let the court know that you’re here to face the music for your failure to appear and also get your underlying case heard.

When you have a criminal defense attorney representing you, they’ll address the court for you, and provide your reasons for missing your court date and argue why you should get your license reinstated (if it was suspended) or your bench warrant lifted (if a warrant was issued for your arrest).

Remember: if you’re worried or nervous, contact a criminal defense attorney who often works in the county of the court where your citation is out of. They’ll be able to help you have more peace of mind, knowing that you won’t be alone in addressing the court about your missing a court date, and how to move forward to deal with the original traffic tickets.

What are some defenses for a failure to appear?

Defending against the failure to appear (FTA) status for a traffic ticket in Georgia requires a strategic approach.

Here are some potential law based defenses:

Lack of Notice

One of the primary defenses is arguing that you were not properly notified about your court date.

The court of the county or city where your charges originate from must provide adequate notice of the hearing, and if they fail to do so, this could be a valid defense.

However, it’s important to note that claiming you didn’t see the notice isn’t enough, you must prove that the court failed to provide it.

Excusable Neglect

This applies when you missed your date for court due to circumstances beyond your control, such as a medical emergency or an unforeseen personal crisis.

You’ll need to provide compelling evidence to back up your claim, like hospital records or other relevant documentation.

Mistaken Identity

If you can prove that the person who was supposed to appear in court is not you, then you may have a valid defense.

This could happen if someone else was driving your car at the time of the violation or there was an error in the ticketing process.

Legal Error

If there was a legal error in how your ticket or summons was issued or handled, it might provide a basis for contesting the FTA charge.

This could include issues like improper procedure by a law enforcement officer or errors in the court process.

Every Case is Different

Remember, each case is unique and these defenses may not apply to all situations.

The best course of action is to contact and consult with a legal professional who can guide you based on the specifics of your case.

It’s important to take FTAs seriously, as the consequences can be severe, including additional fines, license suspension, or even jail time.

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