What is a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT)?
When a person is arrested in New York, he or she may be issued a Desk Appearance Ticket—often referred to as a DAT—in lieu of immediate arraignment. The DAT is simply a form with instructions for appearing in court for arraignment at a later date. Typically, the scheduled arraignment date will be 30 to 90 days from the date of the arrest.
Here’s what a DAT issued by the NYPD looks like:
Eligibility for a DAT in New York
When a person is arrested and will be charged with a crime, the alternative to a DAT is being held for arraignment before a judge. That can mean up to 24 hours in an unpleasant holding cell, so receiving a DAT is obviously preferable. A DAT also allows the opportunity to consult with a criminal defense lawyer before arraignment, which may help to resolve the case more quickly and painlessly.
A DAT may generally be issued when:
- The alleged crime is a low-level misdemeanor or certain specific types of felonies; and
- The person being arrested has valid, government-issued identification.
Some crimes for which DATs are frequently issued include:
- Petit Larceny
- Turnstile Jumping or Theft of Services
- Possession of Marijuana
- Possession of Controlled Substances (in small quantities)
- Grand Larceny
- Assault (not involving domestic violence)
The New York City Police Department’s Patrol Guide provides guidance regarding the issuance of DATs, including guidelines as to situations in which a DAT should not be issued. These include arrests involving:
- An open warrant
- A Domestic Violence-related crime
- Harassment or Aggravated Harassment
- Menacing or Stalking
- Multiple prior convictions
In practice, DATs are often issued even under the circumstances listed above. When I served as a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, I saw DATs issued for crimes falling within all of the categories listed above except for Domestic Violence. On occasion, these DATs were issued despite the accused having multiple felony convictions.
In short, if you are arrested for a low-level crime and have little or no criminal history at the time of your arrest, you are likely to be issued a DAT and released if you have a valid, government-issued photo ID with you. A DAT will not be issued if the police are unable to verify your identity.
DAT Court Dates
When you receive a Desk Appearance Ticket, you are required to appear in court on the designated date. If you fail to appear at the designated date and time, a bench warrant will be issued. When and if you come into contact with police you, will be arrested and brought before the court. That means even if you are stopped for a traffic ticket, if you have an open warrant related to a DAT, you will be arrested by police and brought before a judge.
Missing a DAT Court Date
If you have been issued a DAT and have a very good reason that you truly cannot appear in court on that date, contact a criminal defense attorney as far in advance of the scheduled court date as possible. Your attorney may be able to arrange to have your court appearance rescheduled without a warrant being issued.
Appearing in Court on a DAT
The purpose of the Desk Appearance Ticket court date is the arraignment. However, it is often possible to resolve the charges at this first court appearance.
One possible resolution at the arraignment hearing is an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, often called an ACD. So long as the defendant complies with all terms, an ACD is automatically dismissed in either 6 or 12 months, depending on the crime that is charged. Some common ACD terms include:
- Staying out of trouble/not being arrested during the adjournment period
- Fulfilling community service requirements
- Making restitution to victims
Another common resolution where the charge is minor and the defendant has no criminal history or only a minor prior conviction is a plea agreement to Disorderly Conduct. In New York, Disorderly Conduct is a violation and not a crime and does not result in a criminal record.
After a DAT Appearance
If the charge is not resolved at the DAT court date, another court date will be set. Depending upon the nature of the charges and the likelihood of resolution with the prosecutor, the nature of the next court date may differ. Some possibilities include:
- Filing of a supporting deposition from police or a civilian witness
- Presentation of evidence from a victim or civilian witness
- Discovery (information about the case given to the defense by the prosecutor)
- Motion practice (resolution of issues such as admissibility of evidence)
The next court date will typically take place 6 weeks to 3 months after the DAT appearance. If you have appeared without counsel on the DAT court date and been given a new court date, it is a good idea to make contact with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will need time to prepare for the hearing, and you may lose the opportunity to pursue certain defenses if you don’t act promptly.