Fri 06 Jan, 2023 Criminal Defense

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) in NYC?

Many people who receive a desk appearance ticket (DAT) have never been in trouble with the law before, so they often have lots of questions about what will happen when they go to court — including whether they need to hire a lawyer for their court appearance. 

What is a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT)?

A desk appearance ticket is issued by a police officer after you are arrested for an offense. Typically, the offense is a crime, although sometimes, the police will issue a desk appearance ticket for a non-criminal offense, like disorderly conduct. The desk appearance orders you to return to court several weeks or months later.

In the scheme of things, if you are arrested, you want to receive a desk appearance ticket because the alternative is for you to be booked through the system and brought directly to court. If you are processed through the system and not given a desk appearance ticket, you may be kept in a holding cell for up to 24 hours.

On the other hand, if you are given a desk appearance ticket, you are typically only in custody for several hours so that the police can take you to the precinct, process the arrest, and then give you a desk appearance ticket. Although that experience can still be traumatic and time-consuming, it’s still much better than having to sleep in a jail cell overnight.

When is a Desk Appearance Ticket Issued?

A person is given a desk appearance ticket if his offense is relatively not very serious, and the court does not need to immediately intervene by doing things such as setting bail or issuing an order of protection. 

Generally speaking, under New York Criminal Procedure Law 150.20, police officers are required to issue desk appearance tickets for all misdemeanors and low-level (class E) felonies. However, many exceptions apply, so oftentimes, people charged with misdemeanors are still processed through the system and not given a desk appearance ticket. For example, domestic violence misdemeanors typically do not result in a desk appearance ticket because the court often issues orders of protection to immediately protect the alleged victim and to do so, the defendant must be processed through the system.

Some common exceptions to the general rule that desk appearance tickets must be given for misdemeanors and low-level felonies include, but are not limited to:

  • The defendant has warrants for their arrest for not appearing in court
  • The defendant failed to appear in court proceedings in the last two years
  • The person doesn’t have an ID
  • The person is charged with domestic violence
  • The person is charged with a sex offense
  • The person is charged with an offense where the court can suspend his license (DUI)

What Should I Do After I Get a Desk Appearance Ticket?

If you receive a desk appearance ticket, the first step once you are released should be to contact an NYC criminal lawyer. A desk appearance ticket is only issued if your case will be pending in criminal court. In other words, a desk appearance ticket is not a summons that orders you to go to a civil court, like traffic court. Cases in criminal court are serious in that they can result in jail time and a permanent criminal record if you don’t strategically handle your case.

Because of the seriousness of criminal court, you are entitled to a lawyer for your case. In fact, if you can’t afford a lawyer, the judge will assign a public defender to you on your first court date so that your rights are protected. Although most public defenders are very capable and hard-working lawyers, hiring a private attorney for your desk appearance ticket has several distinct advantages.

First, hiring a lawyer immediately after your arrest will help secure any evidence you might need for your case. Public defenders are assigned to desk appearance ticket cases on the day of the first court appearance, which is commonly 4-6 weeks after the arrest. Oftentimes, evidence can get destroyed within weeks of the arrest, so a public defender may not be able to preserve evidence that a private attorney would be able to preserve. 

For instance, let’s say you are charged with assault. The incident happened at a bar, and you know that you were just defending yourself because the alleged victim was the initial aggressor. The bar has video surveillance, but the system is set to only last for two weeks because the cameras are always recording over older data on its flash drive. Although it is not your public defender’s fault, by the time he or she gets your case, it could be too late to get that video footage. On the other hand, a private attorney could immediately send out an investigator to get the video footage and serve legal subpoenas (if needed) to secure that footage.

Second, by hiring a private attorney immediately after you are arrested, you can speak with him or her at length before your court appearance to get peace of mind by knowing what to expect regarding the potential outcome of your case. Although most district attorney’s offices do not evaluate desk appearance ticket cases until the day of the first court appearance, an experienced private NYC defense lawyer can assess your case to give you a general sense of what you can expect.

Typically, a person who receives a desk appearance ticket can expect the prosecution to make an offer to resolve the case during the first court appearance. For a first arrest, the prosecution may agree to drop the charges down to a non-criminal offense, and in some cases, they even agree to dismiss the case. These deals may be conditioned on the defendant completing some community service or some other class or program. An experienced NYC criminal lawyer can assess your case before your court appearance so that you can develop a game plan, whether it be to take a good offer to get the case over with as soon as possible or to fight the case in an effort to get a complete dismissal.

Need Help? Contact Our Office Today

If you’ve been charged with a crime in New York City and received a desk appearance ticket, give NYC criminal lawyer Cody Warner a call for a free consultation. He can assess your case to determine the best path forward. Contact us today.