Desk Appearance Tickets in New York State in 2018

This research brief presents research on the use of Desk Appearance Tickets (DATs) across New York State in 2018. DATs are an alternative to a traditional, custodial arrest. Rather than remain in police custody for up to 24 hours until their first appearance in court (“arraignment”), a person who receives a DAT is released from police custody. The DAT recipient is then free to return to their community, job, and family until their scheduled arraignment, which can take place up to several weeks later.

As of January 1, 2020, police officers in New York State are required to issue DATs for all non-felony offenses and most class E felony offenses with some exceptions (see the brief for details). Prior to this change, for the same categories of offenses, police departments had the discretion to issue DATs. DCJ’s research brief establishes essential baselines that will help enable DCJ to assess the impact of New York’s 2020 criminal justice reforms and the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of DATs.

Key Findings:

The research found that, prior to New York’s 2020 criminal justice reforms, in 2018:

  • Overall: Police departments frequently used their discretion to issue DATs instead of making custodial arrests – 30.2% of all 2018 misdemeanor and felony arraignments involved DATs.
  • DAT issuance and Charge Variation: Statewide, there was variability in the rate at which police issued DATs for eligible charges. In 2018, police officers issued DATs for more than 50% of marijuana and vehicle/driving-related charges (e.g., unlicensed operation of a vehicle, driving while intoxicated) and almost 1/3 of “property-related” charges (those involving damage to or theft of property). In contrast, only 10.2% of arraignments for “person-related” charges (those involving actual or threatened physical harm to a person) were DATs rather than custodial arrests.
  • Appearance rate: Statewide, the overwhelming majority of DAT recipients (85%) showed up for arraignment, though rates of appearance did vary by geography. Suburban New York City had the highest average appearance rate (~94%), followed by Upstate New York (~85%) and New York City (~77%).
  • Geography: There was significant geographic variation in the issuance of DATs. Only 22.5% of arraignments in New York City were DATs. In contrast, 59.7% of arraignments in Suburban New York City (Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau Counties) were DATs.

This report was originally issued on May 18, 2020, and revised on February 3, 2021, to incorporate changes in DCJ’s coding of charge categories. Details about changes to the original report can be found here.