Reviewed Date: 12/20/2021
When a defendant fails to appear in court or satisfy a traffic citation, the municipal court may order the clerk to notify the Department of Safety of such action on the Court Action Report (courtreport.safety.tn.gov). The traffic case is then marked “Failed to Appear" (FTA) or "Failed to Satisfy" (FTS). Unlike reports of convictions, the failure to satisfy and failure to appear reports are optional.
Upon receipt of the FTA or FTS report, the Department of Safety will first try to notify the defendant by mail that driving privileges will be suspended. The defendant is given an opportunity for a hearing to show that there is an error in the records. The request for a hearing must be made within thirty (30) days of the notification. See, T.C.A. § 55-50-502(a)(1)(I).
Cities may send a letter to the defendant before the citation is sent to the Department of Safety for suspension. The letter would serve as a reminder to the defendant, as well as providing for another opportunity for a hearing on the matter.
The Department of Safety will not allow official correspondence to be forwarded to another address. Licensed drivers are required by law to notify the Department of Safety of any address change, and people who move without notifying the Department of the change of address will not receive the warning letter or the subsequent notification of suspension. The Department of Safety uses only the official address on the driver’s license, not any corrected address the violator may have given to the officer at the time the citation was issued.
Note: There are two cases on appeal in the Sixth Circuit concerning the State's process for suspending and/or revoking drivers' licenses. Specifically, these cases address due process requirements, payment plans, and indigency determinations. The case addressing suspended drivers' licenses is Robinson v. Purkey No. 3:17-cv-0126 (M.D. Tenn., amended complaint filed 12/19/17); 2018 WL 5023330 (10/16/18). The case addressing revoked drivers' licenses is Thomas v. Haslam, No. 3:17-cv-00005, (M.D Tenn., filed 1/4/17), 2018 WL 3301648 (July 2, 2018). The Tennessee Department of Safety stopped suspending drivers' licenses for failure to pay after the Robinson case was decided in October 2018. If you have any questions about the process, please contact the MTAS Municipal Court Specialist.