What is a Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT?
A Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT, is a ticket to appear in court on a later date. It is the functional equivalent of an arrest, but you are not put through the system or held in jail for up to 24 hours before you see a judge. A Desk Appearance Ticket is not the actual charging document that will be used against you or filed in court.
Is anyone eligible for a Desk Appearance Ticket?
No. Only those individuals who are accused of misdemeanor and "E" felony crimes are eligible for Desk Appearance Tickets. Even then, not all misdemeanor crimes are Desk Appearance Ticket eligible. Moreover, certain factors may preclude you from getting a Desk Appearance Ticket. For example, if an alleged incident is domestic in nature, you have a criminal history or you have no proof of residency (identification), then you will not be issued a Desk Appearance Ticket. Keep in mind that merely because you are eligible to receive a Desk Appearance Ticket does not mean that the police have to issue you one.
Have I been arrested?
If you received a Desk Appearance Ticket then you likely have been arrested. Moreover, you have been "printed." Your fingerprints will be used to generate a "rap sheet" or criminal history for the court.
Is a summons the same thing as a Desk Appearance Ticket?
In New York City, a "pink summons" is returnable to the summons court part. These summons', or SAPs, are distinct from Desk Appearance Tickets. In fact, unlike a Desk Appearance Ticket, a summons contains the actual charging document. It is important to note that a summons can also charge a misdemeanor and should not be taken lightly.
I can't make it to court. What will happen if I don't show up?
If you do not show up to court on the return date listed on your Desk Appearance Ticket, then a bench warrant will likely be issued for your immediate arrest. A bench warrant is an order signed by the court permitting the police to take you into custody and return you to court day or night. This information is placed into a database for law enforcement to view beyond the counties that make up New York City.
While the police may not come knocking down your door, the issues with a bench warrant are obvious. If you are pulled over for a speeding ticket, come flying into the United State from abroad or you are merely detained or stopped for smoking in a public park, if your information is run by law enforcement and your bench warrant "pops," you will be taken into custody. This could mean a nigh in jail. Compounding matters, failure to respond to a Desk Appearance Ticket can result in a new charge of Failure to Respond to a Desk Appearance Ticket (NY PL 215.58).
I can't make it to court. Can my criminal attorney change the court date?
Your criminal attorney may be able to change your court date by contacting the court prior to the scheduled time.
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is when you and your New York criminal lawyer go before a judge for the first time. Your criminal defense attorney will plead "not guilty" on your behalf even if you believe you are guilty or have no defense.
After pleading not guilty, the Assistant District Attorney, or prosecutor, will either make you an offer or recommend some type of sentence upon your plea of guilty. If you do not accept the offer or plea (often times the accused will not), the prosecutor will advise you of any "notices." Notices include evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you such as admissions or statements to the police and identifications such as lineups or photo arrays. Moreover, prosecutors will likely indicate what, if any, property or contraband was recovered by you.
After giving the above notices, prosecutors may ask for bail. Obviously, you and your lawyer will ask for little or no bail. Either before the bail request or shortly thereafter, your criminal lawyer will decide what motions, if any, to file. A motion is a memorandum of law presented to the court to challenge the legal basis of the evidence against you, how it was obtained and its sufficiency.
It is important to note that events that transpire at arraignments and decisions that are made there may alter the course of your case. If possible, if you determine that you are going to retain counsel, your criminal lawyer should be present with you at your arraignment.
Do I need an attorney for a Desk Appearance Ticket?
Whether you decide to retain a New York criminal lawyer is a decision only you can make. If you do not hire an attorney or if you are indigent, for example, you will be assigned a Legal Aid attorney or "public defender" at your arraignment. If the court determines you have the means to hire counsel (whether or not you subjectively believe you do), then you will be required to return to court with a private lawyer.
Although there are many tremendous public lawyers, the "penny wise and pound foolish" mentality can jeopardize your case going forward. If you are first meeting your public defender when you go to court (he or she has will likely have twenty or more other new clients), how will your lawyer corroborate your story? What investigation can he do in the few minutes between meeting you and seeing the judge. Will he or she be able to explain the collateral consequences to a non-criminal plea such as to a Disorderly Conduct. If you do accept a plea (or even if you do not), who will you consult with or talk to weeks or months later? What if an employer or immigration attorney has questions? Who will he or she contact? Because what happens at an arraignment can be critical to a case going forward, are you confident that your public defender will take the same approach to your defense as would your private counselor. Even if so, from a practical standpoint, you could be waiting in court for hours before you see a judge your public defender while your private counsel might be able to expedite your case significantly quicker while keeping you and your family abreast of the process.
In short, an experienced New York criminal defense attorney, as opposed to a public defender or a family attorney not knowledgeable about criminal law, is something you should seriously consider.
The Desk Appearance Ticket has the wrong date of the incident or the wrong spelling of my name. Can errors like these be the basis of a dismissal?
Unlike a summons that is the actual charging document in criminal court, the Desk Appearance Ticket is merely a ticket instructing you to go to court on a later date. A Desk Appearance Ticket is not the criminal complaint that will be used against you. Other than notifying you to go to court and the charges that will be pending against you, there is little use behind the actual Desk Appearance Ticket.
My Desk Appearance Ticket lists only one charge? Can I be charged with additional crimes when I go to court?
Yes. A Desk Appearance Ticket will only charge one crime. Although the police issue you the DAT, the charging discretion is left to prosecutors. In other words, if you are charged with a misdemeanor on your DAT, when you go to court prosecutors can charge you with a felony complaint if the evidence is sufficient. Moreover, prosecutors could charge you with multiple misdemeanor crimes even though the DAT listed only one. It is important to discuss with your criminal defense attorney prior to going to court what, if any, charges you may face beyond the one listed on your DAT.