For most people, the question of whether or not you will get a desk appearance ticket is something that has already been decided because you have one and you are now looking for information about it.

But in cases in which the police have contacted you because a complaint has been made about you or there exists a warrant for your arrest, you may be interested in finding out whether or not you are likely to receive a Desk Appearance Ticket.

In New York City (Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc.) the likelihood of getting a Desk Appearance Ticket for anything has been low in recent years, although current trends suggest that it may be more likely now.

You must understand that the decision to issue a Desk Appearance Ticket is one that rests essentially with the Police Department. Nobody is absolutely entitled to a Desk Appearance Ticket. The police, perhaps in consultation with the District Attorney's Offices, establish their own internal guidelines and they may even deviate from those guidelines from time to time.

The following factors will weigh heavily against, if not absolutely foreclose your receiving a desk appearance in New York City:

Prior criminal history
Domestic Violence accusations
Residence outside New York City
Insufficient identification at time of arrest (multiple forms are usually required)
Of course all guidelines are simply guidelines, and you will occasionally find people being given Desk Appearance Tickets who fall outside the guidelines.

This flexibility in the system is one more excellent argument for obtaining a criminal defense lawyer if you can to negotiate a surrender in a case in which you are wanted by the police. It is possible that your lawyer might be able to arrange a desk appearance ticket with the arresting officer. Such arrangements, however, can go awry if the police officer's supervisor rejects the request for a desk appearance ticket.

On the other hand, the police will frequently hold out the prospect of receiving a Desk Appearance Ticket to people they are trying to lure into the Precinct to arrest on serious charges or on less serious charges for which they know full well they are not going to issue a Desk Appearance Ticket.

Over the years, I have received countless telephone calls from prospective clients who have been contacted by the police. They call me out of a sense of uneasiness about dealing with the police without a lawyer (as well they should ).

In a huge majority of these cases, they have been all but promised Desk Appearance Tickets by the police officers who have called them. Many of these cases I know right away are not going to result in Desk Appearance Tickets. But the prospect of getting a Desk Appearance Ticket is something that the police know is something that will make it easier to convince people to voluntarily surrender to them.

Therefore it gets suggested as a "strong possibility" by the police in more cases than it will likely happen.

Equally troubling, if not more so, is the lawyer who claims to the prospective client that he will guarantee a Desk Appearance Ticket either through special influence or some sort of magic power. I wouldn't even mention this except that I have encountered many prospective clients who have suggested that other lawyers have made such claims. Beware of lawyers who make astounding claims, especially as to the issuance of Desk Appearance Tickets.

The bottom line is that, at least in New York City, when you start to hear promises of Desk Appearance Tickets being written, whether those promises are coming from a police officer or a lawyer, be wary.


Don Murray is one of the founding partners of Shalley & Murray, a New York criminal defense law firm with offices in New York City and Westchester County. Mr. Murray is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has been practicing criminal defense in New York for more than 20 years. Any questions or comments about this article or seeking representation on a Desk Appearance Ticket can be directed to him directly at 718-268-2171.