What is a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT)?

By: Don Murray

A Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) is an order issued by the police to appear in Criminal Court to respond to an accusation that you have committed an offense.

In most cases, a Desk Appearance Ticket will be charging a misdemeanor offense. Most misdemeanor offenses in New York are crimes for which the maximum punishment is one year in jail.

Occasionally, the charge will be a violation. A violation, such as Disorderly Conduct, is an offense in New York, but is not considered under our law to be a crime. A violation can be punished by a maximum of 15 days in jail.

It is also possible in New York to be given a Desk Appearance Ticket for an E felony offense. A felony offense is one that is punishable by more than one year in prison. In the case of an E non violent felony, the maximum punishment is a range of from 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison.

Getting a Desk Appearance Ticket for an E felony offense in any of the boroughs of New York City (Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, or Staten Island) is extremely rare. It may be more common in Westchester or Nassau County.

I have been involved in a very small number of felony Desk Appearance Tickets in New York City in 20 years practicing criminal defense. In fact, on one occasion when I was surrendering a client on an E felony offense in New York City, the Detective refused to believe that it was legal to give a Desk Appearance Ticket on an E felony accusation. I had to show him the law. He was not impressed. The client went through "the system".

Do not be deceived by the word "ticket". A desk appearance ticket is not like a traffic ticket or even a pink summons that you see traffic officers distributing. Desk Appearance Tickets usually charge criminal offenses and will send you to "regular" criminal court - not the summons courtroom.

Getting a Desk Appearance Ticket means that you have been arrested. From now on, no matter what happens to your case, the truthful answer to the question, "Have you ever been arrested?" will be "yes."

Fortunately, being arrested for a crime, in and of itself, is not something that will likely pose a problem for your future unless you actually get convicted of something. Former President Bush has been arrested but he became President of the United States. So don't worry too much about the "arrest" part of it. What you really need to be concerned with is the outcome of the case.

Once arrested in New York, there are two ways you can be processed.

The traditional method to process a new arrest is to hold the person who was arrested in jail until he is brought before a judge for arraignment. Arraignment is your first appearance on a criminal case in New York where the issue of bail is determined. In New York City, this usually means a minimum of about 24 hours in custody. Click here for more information about the traditional arraignment process in New York.

The second, and less widely used method is the Desk Appearance Ticket. In the Desk Appearance Ticket procedure, the police prepare most of the paperwork as if you were being processed the usual way, but instead of making you wait to see a judge for your arraignment, they give you a date to bring yourself to court for your arraignment.

Getting a Desk Appearance Ticket is usually an enormous benefit, especially in New York City where the prospect of spending 24 or more hours in jail waiting for a traditional arraignment is more than a little frightening to most people.

On the court date set on your desk appearance ticket, do not expect to be starting your trial. The only thing that is scheduled to happen on the date scheduled is your arraignment. That is, you are formally brought into court, provided a copy of the charges against you, you enter your plea of not guilty, and the judge determines whether or not bail is necessary to make sure you will continue to come back to court.

There will be no witnesses. There will be no evidence. There are no determinations of guilt or innocence unless you are able to work out an agreement with the assistant district attorney right there and then. There will not be a trial.

The main purpose of the first court date on the DAT is to bring the case into the system formally. After the first date, the case will be sent to the regular criminal courtrooms and join all the other criminal cases that were handled in the traditional 24 hour arraignment procedure. Once in the regular criminal courtroom, your desk appearance ticket case will be indistinguishable from any other case.

BY: Don A. Murray, Esq.

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.