Desk Appearance Tickets in New York City

The police occasionally give suspects desk appearance tickets when they are arrested for misdemeanors in New York City, including Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, instead of "putting them through the system."

That means that if you get a Desk Appearance Ticket in Queens, for example, the Desk Appearance Ticket will tell you when to come to court for your arraignment instead of you being held in jail until a judge hears your case and decides bail. Getting a desk appearance ticket in New York City will save you about 24 hours of misery waiting to see a judge.

A person is eligible for a Desk Appearance Ticket in New York when he is arrested for a misdemeanor or class E felony. As a practical matter, the police virtually never give a person a desk appearance ticket in New York City for an E felony. I once had an argument with a New York City Detective to whom I was surrendering a client on an E felony, because the Detective refused even to believe that New York permitted Desk Appearance Tickets for E felonies. It is permitted, but the police choose to not offer desk appearance tickets for E felonies with any frequency.

Desk appearance tickets in New York City are harder to come by than they used to be. Years ago, a person arrested for the first time for a misdemeanor was quite likely to get a desk appearance ticket. These days, however, New York City Police Department policies make qualifying for a desk appearance ticket extremely difficult. Entire categories of cases are virtually excluded from consideration for desk appearance tickets.

For example, domestic violence cases or allegations of violations of orders of protection are usually excluded from consideration for desk appearance tickets in New York City.

Getting a desk appearance ticket means that you have been arrested. You have just been given the courtesy of appearing on your own for your arraignment as opposed to waiting in jail for 24 hours to see the judge.  See partner Don Murray address the common myth that a DAT is somehow not an arrest, below.



Many people make the mistaken assumption that because it is "just a desk appearance ticket" they do not need to appear with a lawyer. This is a big mistake for a number of reasons.

First, you need a lawyer because you are being charged with a criminal offense. Although desk appearance ticket cases in New York City do tend to be cases of less seriousness than others, they still represent potential criminal convictions and jail time. In fact, desk appearance ticket cases can and do frequently make their way through the full scope of the criminal justice system all the way to trial. The fact of the matter is that your freedom and your reputation are at stake.

Do not assume that your "court date" is going to be your opportunity to explain anything to the judge or present evidence. The first date of the desk appearance ticket is the arraignment. You enter a plea (like "not guilty") and are informed of the charges. That's all. The judge is simply not going to listen to anything about the case. No judge at the desk appearance ticket arraignment is likely to permit you to say anything about your case. Even if you are going to represent yourself, the arraignment is not the appropriate time in the process for arguing a case.

If you want to contest the charges, you will have to fight the case in criminal court through the complete criminal justice system in New York City.

Unless you are a criminal defense lawyer then you are not prepared to do that. The prosecutor who will prosecute you does nothing else but prosecute cases in the criminal justice system. The judge who will rule on issues of law throughout your case does little or nothing else besides criminal cases. Your freedom, reputation, and future may well be at stake. Why on earth would you willingly attempt to negotiate your way through this world by yourself with no training or experience?

Another benefit to having a private lawyer at your Desk Appearance Ticket arraignment is that as a practical matter, you will likely be done in court sooner, a lot sooner. The public defenders who staff the desk appearance courtrooms are provided numerous files of all the people who have desk appearance tickets that day. They must interview each one individually. Typically, private counsel with one case can have a notice of appearance up before the public defenders turn in stacks of notices of cases to be called. In this way, you can be in and out often extremely quickly.

The alternative, if you don't have your own lawyer with you, is to wait for one of the public defenders to call out your name and interview you in the hallway before having your case called. Eventually, someone will talk to you and have your case called. There can be no possible way to predict, however, precisely how quickly or slowly your case will be called.

Want even more information about desk appearance tickets in New York City? Visit our separate site devoted solely to Desk Appearance Tickets in New York City.