A desk appearance ticket, or “D.A.T.” as it is commonly referred to, is a written notice issued and subscribed by a police officer or other public servant directing you to appear in criminal court in connection with an alleged offense. It can be issued under certain circumstances when a person is being accused of committing a violation, a misdemeanor, or even a limited selection of felonies. Police will generally not issue a D.A.T. to people who do not possess valid identification, have an arrest record, or are charged with any domestic violence related offense or driving while intoxicated. D.A.T.s are more commonly issued to first time arrestees charged with marijuana possession, shoplifting, and even knife possession.
So what exactly does the appearance ticket mean? The function of the D.A.T. is to secure your appearance before a criminal court judge to potentially face charges for a violation or crime at a future date. People who receive D.A.T.s avoid being put “through the system,” which means they don’t have to sit in jail for roughly 24 hours before being brought before a judge to be arraigned on charges. The only difference is the method in which they are brought to court to face the charges, so the fact that the word “ticket” is involved does not mean that the situation should be taken likely. The recipient of a D.A.T. still faces the threat of prosecution for crimes which can result in a permanent record and even jail, so the end result can be no different than that of the person who is booked and put through the system.
What should you do if you get a desk appearance ticket? Contact a lawyer immediately so that you can be represented on the “return date,” the date that the ticket indicates that you need to be present in criminal court (failure to show up on the return date will result in a bench warrant being issued). When you and your lawyer show up to court you will either find out what offense(s) the District Attorney’s Office is charging you with (which may or may not be the same as the charges that are on the ticket) OR you may be told that your papers are not ready, which means the D.A.’s office did not get around to drawing up the complaint, and you will be told to wait to hear the next date that you need to come back to court.
If the D.A.’s office has filed charges against you, than you will be arraigned on those charges and you will be in the same situation as those who are arrested, booked, and put through the system. Your case may proceed to trial, or a lawyer may be able to enter a plea to a lower charge on your behalf, but you will need an attorney present to do all of these things.
Other than the fact that you will need a lawyer to resolve your case if you end up being formally charged with a crime(s), an added benefit of being accompanied by a lawyer on your return date is that your case will be called much more quickly. For example, in Brooklyn criminal court, there are certain days where all of the D.A.T. matters are heard in one courtroom. The doors to the courtroom open at 9:30 a.m. and hundreds of people rush into the room, put their return sheets in a bin and then have to wait until their case is called in order, which can take all day. D.A.T. recipients accompanied by lawyers are asked to step up and indicate that they are already represented. With a lawyer you can almost certainly guarantee you will not be waiting until 4pm to have your case called.
If you or a loved one has been issued a desk appearance ticket, you should not hesitate to contact anexperienced criminal attorney who can represent you on your return date and achieve the best possible outcome for you.