Desk Appearance Tickets (DATs)
People are routinely given what are called "Desk Appearance Tickets" or "DATs" for short. A Desk Appearance Ticket is legally the same thing as a formal arrest. Because the police, the District Attorney's Office, and judges all treat Desk Appearance Tickets seriously, you should too. Therefore, it is critical that you contact a New York City criminal defense lawyer immediately any time you are arrested, even if it's "only" for a DAT.
When a person is placed under arrest, the person is brought to the police precinct where his arrest is initially processed. This processing includes such things as taking the person’s fingerprints, taking his pedigree information, etc. This process can take a few hours. Once the person’s arrest is fully processed, the police make a determination about whether to send the person immediately to central booking where he will wait to face the judge for his arraignment, or whether to give the person a Desk Appearance Ticket. When the police determine to send the person to central booking directly, the person is not free to leave and is escorted to this location by members of the Police Department while in handcuffs. He is then placed in a jail cell where he waits until the court is ready for him to face the judge. At this initial proceeding, which is referred to as an “arraignment,” the person, who is now known as “the defendant," learns of the charges that the District Attorney’s Office has filed against him, has a lawyer appointed to him if he cannot afford one, and the issue of bail is discussed. The arraignment is essentially the beginning of the litigation process.
However, there are times when the police make a determination that the person should not be sent to central booking, but rather should be given a DAT. If a person is given this DAT, then he is essentially given a date in the future for when he must appear in court for his initial arraignment. Once this arraignment happens, then the criminal litigation process begins in the same way as if the person was sent to central booking. A police algorithm resolves the question of whether a person is given a DAT versus whether he is sent to central booking. This algorithm is not particularly complicated and can be reduced to the following: if a person is charged with a felony, a domestic violence crime, or has a significant criminal record, then he will not be given a DAT. However, absent these circumstances, the police may give a person a DAT if they believe the person is likely to not miss his court date or to run away. The reason they do this is because it costs the city a lot of money to needlessly bring people to central booking where they have to wait for up to a day to face the judge, when the person can just be told to show up to court on a particular date in the future. Essentially, the police make an educated guess that the person is likely to go to court because the person understands that he must.
Despite this, do not be mistaken about the serious ramifications of your arrest if you’ve been given a DAT. If you were given a DAT, you were placed under arrest. And if that arrest was for a class A misdemeanor, that crime is punishable by up to one year in jail. So if you were given a DAT, the matter is just as serious as if you were sent to central booking. Don’t let the use of the word “Ticket” fool you.
If you or a loved one has been issued a DAT and if you don’t go to Court on the date you were instructed to go, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. The police will then actively look for you and arrest you when they see you. You will then be brought to the judge, who may set bail.
Therefore, if you have a DAT date coming up, please understand that the District Attorney’s Office likely intends to initiate a criminal proceeding against you that could lead to your incarceration. Just like with any arrest, you are going to need an attorney to represent you in court and to fight for your rights. John Buza, a former Manhattan prosecutor, is an experienced New York criminal defense attorney. Feel free to contact him if you have any questions or to schedule a free consultation.