In NYC, after an arrest, an individual will be taken to central booking and spend upwards of 24 hours waiting to see a judge. In certain instances, someone who has been arrested can avoid this lengthy process by obtaining a desk appearance ticket. A desk appearance ticket (DAT) is an order to appear in Criminal Court for an arraignment. Oftentimes, when the police arrest someone for certain crimes, instead of sending the person though central booking, they will issue a DAT that orders the person to appear in court on a certain date. Make no mistake; a person who receives a DAT has been arrested.
From the point of arraignment on the DAT and on, the DAT case is just like any other criminal case. Although being issued a DAT may not seem serious, this type of misguided belief could not be more mistaken. Here are simple answers to many questions that arise out of being issued a DAT:
What is a DAT? CPL Section 150.10 describes a DAT as "a written notice issued and subscribed by a police officer...directing a designated person to appear in a designated local criminal court at a designated future time in connection with his alleged commission of a designated offense."
Who is eligible for a DAT? First, it is important to remember that a person who is eligible for a DAT is not automatically entitled to a DAT. The police are free to use their discretion. Generally, police officers will only give someone a DAT if they have a local and verifiable address, have no criminal record, and do not have any open bench warrants.
What crimes are associated with the issuing of DAT's? DAT's may be issued for violations, misdemeanors, and "E" felonies (although this is rare). Many people arrested for misdemeanors involving shoplifting, petit larceny, possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license (VTL 511), possession of a controlled substance, possession of a gravity knife, and minor assaults are commonly given DAT's.
What happens when I appear in court on my DAT? Since a DAT is merely a device to inform you of a future court date, once you arrive in court with an attorney, you will be officially arraigned before a criminal court judge. Your attorney will be provided with a charging document called a criminal court complaint. The complaint will state the crimes that you are being charged with and the basis for believing that you committed those offenses. It is then possible that the prosecutor will ask the judge to set bail. If this happens, your attorney will have an opportunity to tell the judge why bail is not necessary.
What if I miss my DAT court date? There is a very high likelihood that a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.
What if I am from another state or another country? If you are from another country and are issued a DAT but fail to appear, there is a very strong likelihood that if you later return to the United States, a customs agent will discover the existence of the bench warrant that will require your immediate arrest. If you are from another State, a warrant will drop upon any stop by the police within NYS and could potentially drop out of state as well.
Ok, I am leaving the country or the State, do I have to personally appear? There are other ways for a Manhattan or Brooklyn defense lawyer to resolve your case without you personally returning for your court date.
My DAT is in Manhattan, where do I go? NY County sends DAT's to two locations so you will need to check. The traditional criminal courthouse is located at 100 Centre Street and the Midtown Community Court is located at 314 West 54th Street.
My DAT is in Brooklyn, where do I go? Most likely, you will be told to appear at the criminal courthouse located at 120 Schermerhorn Street.
Do I need a lawyer? Yes. While many police officers will tell you to "just show up to court" or "Don't bother to hire a lawyer," this is bad advice. While the charges may not be overly serious, you have been arrested and need to obtain legal advice from a skilled Manhattan or Brooklyn defense attorney.