If a police officer accuses you of a crime by handing you a summons on the street, you need a summons lawyer.
If the officer accuses you by handing you a desk appearance ticket ("DAT") at the police station, you need a DAT lawyer.
Summonses and DAT's are alternatives to full-blown arrest in New York City. Consider yourself somewhat fortunate if you receive a summons or a desk appearance ticket. It means you didn't go through a full-blown arrest.
A summons is a piece of paper, issued by a police officer, directing you to appear in court at a specific date and time, to be charged with a crime or a non-criminal offense.
The officer usually will hand you a summons on the street after detaining you for a few minutes. The encounter leading to issuance of a summons might not feel like an arrest. You probably won't be handcuffed before it's issued. You won't be photographed or fingerprinted.
The NYPD issues summonses for certain non-Penal Law misdemeanors and violations defined by laws other than the Penal Law, such as the New York City Administrative Code, and for some violations defined under the Penal Law. (See NYPD summons policy.)
Summons Court is part of Criminal Court. A "judicial hearing officer", not a judge, presides over the proceedings – even though you can be convicted of a crime. Court officers solicit defendants to sign a form giving up the right to have a judge preside over the case. Most defendants sign the form, not understanding what it means.
A DAT, like a summons, is a piece of paper, issued by a police officer, directing you to appear in court at a specific date and time, to be charged with a crime or a non-criminal offense.
You'll receive the DAT at a police precinct after being detained in custody, typically for one to three hours. In other words, you'll be arrested before you receive a DAT. You'll probably be handcuffed, and possibly detained in a cell, before it's issued. You'll be photographed and fingerprinted.
The NYPD has authority to issue DAT's for some misdemeanors (fairly common) and low-level felonies (rare). Police may not issue DAT's to people charged with "family offenses", sex offenses, and certain other crimes.The NYPD won't issue DAT's to people with substantial criminal histories. There are many other limitations.
Summons and DAT Charges
Police typically issue summonses and DAT's to people accused of low-level crimes and non-criminal offenses such as:
Don't ignore a summons or a DAT. If you fail to attend court on the scheduled date, a judge will issue a bench warrant directing the NYPD to arrest you.
There’s great potential for negative consequences if you’re convicted of a crime. Sometimes conviction of a non-criminal offense can have unexpected consequences.
If you work in the banking industry, even certain types of dismissal of could cause you to lose your job.
Even if the charge seems minor, at least consult a summons lawyer before you go to court on a summons, or a DAT lawyer before you go to court on a desk appearance ticket. Don't take unnecessary risks with your future.
I've been a summons lawyer and a DAT lawyer for over 25 years. For a free consultation about summonses and DAT's in New York City, call me at 212-390-0036, or complete this short form:
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