More often than not, if you are arrested in New York City for certain misdemeanor crimes such as PL 155.25, PL 165.40 (the “NYC shoplifting crimes“), PL 120.00 (assault), PL 220.03 (“personal use” drug possession) or PL 165.15 (service theft), the New York City Police Department will give you a Desk Appearance Ticket instead of holding you overnight in jail (assuming this is your first offense and you have a local address). Just as this is a common way to deal with those who qualify in terms of the arrest charge and tie to New York City, the vast majority of New York criminal lawyers would agree that an appearance ticket, or DAT, is the way to go should it be an option. Having said that, however, there are circumstances where getting a DAT instead of immediately being processed can be cumbersome at minimum and problematic at worst. So…let’s address the issue(s) here. What are the consequences for missing your appearance date regardless as to why you were unable to appear and what can you do to rectify the problem should you know of your conflict in advance?
Missing Your Desk Appearance Ticket: Foreign Nationals & Non-New York Residents
New York City may not be the capital of New York State, but in terms of visitors from home and abroad, it is definitely a worldwide destination of choice. For those visitors arrested for NY PL 155.25 (Petit Larceny), NY PL 165.40 (Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property), NY PL 220.03 (Seventh Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance) and given a New York City Desk Appearance Ticket, it could be cost prohibitive or legally not possible to return a month or two after you leave NYC. For example, if you reside in Australia, South Korea, India or France, you can’t just stay in the USA without a job. Alternatively, you may jeopardize your legal status or your visa waiver. If you live in California or Nevada, you may not have the legal issues, but it could be costly to return.
Although some police officers may tell you that if you are leaving the state or country you can go to court the day after you receive an appearance ticket, that is generally going to do little or nothing at all. Simply, the District Attorney’s Office will have no paperwork or information about your case and they do not have the authority (the court has the right and ability) to excuse you from appearing.
While in no way is this blog entry a recommendation or representation as to what you should do in your own NYC Desk Appearance Ticket case, being prepared before you leave New York may save you time, money and ultimately a warrant for your arrest. In fact, if prepared, a criminal defense attorney of your choosing may appear on your behalf and in your absence. Depending on the case, a plea or no criminal resolution can be had without you ever appearing.
Consequences for Missing Your Court Date & Non-Compliance with a DAT
There is really no other way to say this other than if you fail to appear on your return date set forth on your Desk Appearance Ticket, there is an overwhelming likelihood a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you are a foreign national who is returning to the United States days, weeks, months or even years later, when you land at JFK airport, for example, a warrant will require your immediate arrest. Not only will this be embarrassing, but you could spend 24 hours in jail waiting to see a judge who will obviously know that you never appeared as required by law.
If you are a resident of another state, you are not free from this problem. Your warrant will “drop” if you are stopped by the police for any infraction in New York including a speeding ticket. The same could potentially happen out of state as well. Like a foreign citizen, you would likely be arrested.
Even beyond the bench warrant issue, prosecutors have the ability to charge you with a new offense. New York Penal Law 215.58, Failure to Respond to an Appearance Ticket, is a distinct violation of the New York Penal Law separate and apart from your original arrest charge.
Could a warrant impact the potential negotiations or plea offer (assuming you are seeking to resolve your case in such a manner as opposed to fighting it head on)? Absolutely. Could a judge set bail? Certainly. Can there be collateral consequences to your employment or immigration? Without a doubt.
At bottom, whether you are in the jurisdiction or you have already left, there are often ways to either resolve your criminal case without you returning for your court date or to avoid a warrant from being issued. No attorney can guarantee how the court will respond to your failure to appear, but merely not showing up is the easiest way to be saddled with a warrant for your arrest. Don’t be shortsighted and ignorant of the law. A criminal conviction will follow you forever.
To learn the “ins and outs” of New York Desk Appearance Tickets from crimes charged and procedures to possible defenses and laws, follow the highlighted links found throughout this entry. Extensive information on legal decisions, criminal statutes and analysis of past cases can be found not only on this blog and the New-York-Lawyers.org website, but at NYDeskAppearanceTicket.Com (all linked below) as well.
A New York criminal defense firm representing clients in DATs throughout New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn), the founding Desk Appearance attorneys and criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prior to starting the law practice.