I am a former prosecutor in the Atlanta court. I know that place like the back of my hand. On your first court date you will have to plead not guilty, and request a bench trial before a judge. Your case will be rescheduled 2 to 8 weeks for a bench trial date. When you return on that date if the other party is not there to testify against you then the case will be dismissed. You do not qualify to participate in their pre-trial diversion program where the ticket against you gets dismissed upon payment of the fine because an accident is involved. Also, if you are under the age of 21 they will try to suck you into the TLC program for teenage drivers which is a ton of work, but if you believe the other driver will not show up I would stick with the not guilty plea.
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There is a presumption of fault when you rear end another car. It is always best to hire an attorney to fight any traffic tickets you get. If you still will not hire an attorney, you can go to Court and see if they will plead you down to a zero points offense like impeding traffic. You still pay the fine but you don't get the points. Sometimes they will also agree to take it under advisement and if you don't get in any more traffic related tickets it comes off your record. Other times they wont cut you any deal at all. Good luck.
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Get an attorney.
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You can find the Atlanta Municipal Court Fine Schedule online. Interesting thing, it set the fine and court costs for following too closely at around $200, but notes that this is if there was not an accident. I'm not sure how you "follow too closely" without there being an accident, or at least how you prove the violation without there being an accident. However, note that your fines could be higher according to the fee schedule.
Pleading nolo is always a good practice when an accident is involved, even a minor one. You don't want to plead guilty, thereby admitting fault, and find out later that someone in the car you "clipped" was claiming an injury. By pleading guilty to a traffic violation, you are admitting negligence. Therefore, you plead no contest to protect yourself.
A no contest plea also prevents your license from accumulating any points for the violation. Therefore, the only long term impact you have to worry about is higher insurance premiums.
You've got several good answers. You likely always will do better with counsel.
A nolo plea isn't a horrible option, but you get the standard fine.
A not guilty plea resets the case for trial. Usually the other driver won't show, and the key there will be did the officer see enough to testify. If yes, you are facing a loss in court and a conviction; if no you probably get a dismissal. A lawyer would be very useful that day to make the appropriate motions.
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