Knowing the location and date of a court appearance is essential to avoiding penalties, since missing a court date is a criminal offense in the state of Georgia. Finding this information is relatively easy – most courts across the state allow users to locate their court date online, provided they know their case number. Individuals can also call their county clerk's office to find that information. In the case of traffic tickets, the date will be listed on the ticket.
Locating a Case by County and Court
Finding a Georgia court date and a location is easy if an individual has their case number. Even if they don't, they may still be able to locate their date online. The Judicial Council of Georgia has all its county superior court cases and dockets accessible online; local county clerks offices also update their databases and court calendars regularly.
Individuals can also call their county clerk's office. They should give their full name and case number and state that they want to confirm their court date and time. They can also ask the lawyer involved in the civil or criminal case for this information. Traffic court dates are even easier to find – when someone receives a traffic ticket they can confirm their court date by looking at Section IV: Summons on their citation if they wish to contest it.
Georgia's E-filing System for Public Records
E-filing became mandatory in Georgia in 2015. The state's web portal, Odyssey eFileGA, allows users, such as attorneys and self-represented litigants, to file documents any time of the day or week to multiple courts across the state. It created this program to simplify processes for civil cases and provide one place to search for existing cases.
It also eliminates the necessity for filing physical documents at a county clerk's office during normal office hours. Not every court is available through this service. Users can find their court, if active, on the Odyssey eFileGA location page.
Failure to Appear and Penalties
Whether intentional or unintentional, a person who fails to appear for a scheduled court appearance in Georgia faces a criminal charge. Additionally, missing a court appearance may escalate an individual's charges or negatively influence a judge's opinion. If a person misses court because of an emergency, such as jail or hospitalization, they should present that information to a judge. The court will consider their circumstances, as long as they provide documentation of their whereabouts.
The penalties for missing a court date vary depending on the charge. The court may request forfeiture of bond for a misdemeanor. However, if a person fails to appear and jumps bail, and the original charge was a misdemeanor, the penalty is a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in prison. For felony bail jumping, the penalty is up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Missing a court date for a traffic ticket can result in arrest and losing driving privileges.
Bench Warrant After Failure to Appear
Some people believe that if they miss a court date and ignore it, the problem will eventually disappear. However, if they wait too long, this could lead to severe consequences. The court may issue a bench warrant for an offender who didn't show up in court that law enforcement in Georgia and other states can access. A person who has a bench warrant could find themselves in jail as the result of a simple traffic citation. Law enforcement could hold them for up 72 hours after arrest.
Bench warrants do not go away unless the person faced with one deals with it. An individual with an active warrant can turn themselves in and work with an attorney. Doing this will look better to a court than continuing to hide and end up being brought in involuntarily.
- Odyssey eFileGA: Home
- Odyssey eFileGA: File Court Documents Anytime, Anywhere With Odyssey eFileGA
- Georgia Courts: Find a Court Case
- The Law Dictionary: How to Look Up My Court Date Online
- Webb and D'orazio: What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Court
- Georgia Courts: Frequently Asked Questions
- Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers: Failure to Appear
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.