Here’s one question we are consistently asked: “Do I need to hire a lawyer for my desk appearance?” The short answer is “yes” and “absolutely.” In this blog, we discuss why this is.
First, let’s explain to you what your Desk Appearance Ticket (“DAT”) is.
The Criminal Procedure Law defines the DAT as “a written notice issued and subscribed by a police officer or other public servant authorized by state law…directing a designated person to appear in a designated local criminal court at a designated future time in connection with his alleged commission of a designated offense.” In other words, if you’ve received a DAT, you’re being directed to appear in Criminal Court where you should expect to be formally prosecuted as a defendant. People are often mislead by DATs because they think they were stopped by the police and then “let go.” The reality is that very serious misdemeanors such as Assault and Criminal Possession of a Weapon are often charged following the issuance of a DAT. While it might be tempting to think that the charge “can’t be that serious” since you were “only given a ticket,” nothing could be farther from the truth. To be sure, your failure to appear on a scheduled Court date will result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. So it is absolutely imperative that you appear on your Court date.
“What should I expect when I go to Court?” The DAT is a legal mechanism to bring you to Court to face criminal charges, so you have to prepare yourself to assume the role of a defendant in a criminal action once you get there. If you’ve received a DAT, it’s because a member of law enforcement has accused you of breaking the law – which means a local prosecuting agency is going to prosecute you when you get to Court. You should expect to appear before a Judge and be formally charged by formal accusatory instrument which is provided to the defense on that day (which is why it’s necessary to be represented by counsel).
“What am I being charged with?” If you’ve already been issued a DAT, take a look in the upper left hand corner, under your name and address. You should see a line that says “Top Offense Charged” and then the letters “PL” followed by some numbers. The numbers correspond to the section of the Penal Law that you have been accused of violating. Some common Penal Law numbers on DATs are “120.00” (Assault), “155.25” (Petit Larceny), “220.03” (Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree), and “265.04” (Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree), just to name a few (the Penal Law sections mentioned here are all Class “A” misdemeanors, punishable by up to 1 year in jail). It’s important to keep in mind that the DAT only has space for your top count, so it’s not uncommon for defendants to appear in Court only to find that they’re being charged with additional violations of the Penal Law.
“So do I need a lawyer?” Yes. We can see how you may have beeen lulled to sleep by the fact that you were arrested and released “with just a piece of paper.” Or perhaps you thought the situation was less serious since they weren’t “put through the system” and held in jail for 24 hours before coming out before a Judge. Hopefully you now understand that the DAT process simply allows you to make your appearance at a later date, while the same stakes and penalties that come with being criminally charged apply.
If you or a loved one have received a Desk Appearance Ticket, do not hesitate to reach out to Galluzzo & Arnone; our team of former prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys can help extricate you from the case as soon as possible.