Individuals without criminal records arrested for misdemeanors in New York City are routinely charged by way of a Desk Appearance Ticket. Though individuals issued Desk Appearance Ticket do not spend twenty-four hours in prison awaiting arraignment like other defendants, their cases are no less serious than those misdemeanor cases pursued the “traditional” way (in which defendants do not get released from custody until they are arraigned before a judge the day after their arrests). One of the advantages for defendants issued Desk Appearance Tickets (as opposed to the “traditional way”) is that they have an opportunity to seek counsel of their choosing for their arraignments. As a result, the attorney-authors of this blog are routinely asked: “Should I hire an attorney for my Desk Appearance Ticket?” Our typical answer: only if you care about your future, your career, or your family.
Public defenders are available for indigent defendants at arraignments on Desk Appearance Tickets. However, if you are not indigent, then you do not qualify for a public defender, meaning that you will have to return with a privately-retained lawyer anyway. Even if you do qualify, technically, for a public defender, you should consider various other reasons for hiring a private attorney. First and foremost, you will be unable to speak to a public defender in advance of your court date, whereas a private defense attorney can meet with you and prepare you and answer your questions in advance of your court date. Also, defendants with private attorneys are usually seen by the judge first and can typically leave before 10:30 am; those people relying on public defenders may find themselves waiting in line all day to talk to an attorney, and waiting to see a judge well into the afternoon session. If your case lasts beyond the arraignment, you may find it extremely difficult to get ahold of a public defender, as they are typically responsible for hundreds of criminal cases at a given moment and are often unable to respond to voicemails; in contrast, a private lawyer presumably has more time to answer your phone calls and questions and meet with you in the office. The private attorneys at our office, unlike public defenders, will continue to work on your case after its done to ensure that where, if applicable, the records of your arrest have been properly sealed and the matter cleared from the public domain. Finally, the attorneys at our office, unlike public defenders, can sometimes in certain types of cases assist out-of-state residents, students, or foreign citizens by appearing for them in lieu of personal appearances.
Most importantly, though, these matters are important and must be taken seriously. A criminal conviction – even for a misdemeanor – can create permanent obstacles to employment, naturalization, university admission, and more. There is no expungement of criminal convictions in New York, so a criminal conviction for even a misdemeanor is a permanent matter of public record and can haunt a person for the rest of his or her life. FINRA-licensed brokers can unwittingly jeopardize their careers in seemingly trivial matters, and non-citizens can prevent themselves from being able to stay in the United States in accepting a disposition that seems otherwise reasonable. These are mistakes that can be avoided with the advice of good and prepared counsel.