If you are arrested by the police, they may take you directly before a judge after going through the book process. At that court appearance, you will likely be arraigned, and the judge will decide on whether to release you on your own recognizance or set bail. However, another possibility is that instead of being brought directly before a judge, you will go through the booking process, released, and given a document that specifies future date for your first court appearance. That document is called a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT.
DATs are typically issued for lower level offenses, and to those without a significant criminal history. The Desk Appearance ticket directs you to appear before a judge on a specific date and time, usually two weeks to a month from the date the DAT is issued. That first court appearance will essentially be exactly the same as if you had been brought directly before a judge following your arrest. However, there is one important difference. If you are issued a DAT, and you appear in court on the specified date as required, this should greatly increase your chances of being released on your own recognizance, or at least of having minimal bail set by the judge. For the most part, this is because you have already demonstrated to the court that you will appear when required by showing up on your DAT return date. This is a powerful show of good faith on your part, and can help your case in several other intangible ways as well.
You should know that being given a DAT does not change the level or seriousness of the offense with which you have been charged. A petit larceny charge is the same, whether you are taken directly before a judge and held in on $10,000 bail, or given a DAT and released on your own recognizance. A criminal charge is a serious thing that can have long-lasting implications. You should have an experienced criminal law attorney at your side who can guide you through this process, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout.
This blog entry is not an attempt to substitute for an examination of your particular case by your own criminal defense lawyer who will determine what is best for your case. Instead, this entry can give you the foundation to better understand Desk Appearance Tickets in New York State.