What Doesn’t Work: Trying to plea bargain your criminal charges down by offering to provide to law enforcement “inside information” about people who have intentionally and repeatedly ripped off the “do not remove” tags from their mattresses.
What Works: Before asking for a court-appointed attorney, decide whether it’s worth it. Most people don’t know that even when the court decides you can’t afford an attorney and appoints a “free” attorney to represent you, most of the time you will still have to pay some of the attorney’s fees. Unless the charges are completely dropped, once your case is resolved, the judge will add an additional $150 to $250 “recoupment fee” to cover the costs of the attorney you couldn’t afford to hire.
In most criminal cases, the recoupment fee is worth the extra $150, but if you are charged with any kind of minor to medium traffic violation, your $90 ticket may turn into a $240 ticket. Even if your court-appointed attorney can get a $200 ticket cut in half, you will still end up paying $250! The only way you can avoid paying the extra recoupment fee is by getting the case totally dismissed.
So, if you are dealing with anything that could end up on your criminal record and you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you should almost always ask for an attorney. But if it’s a minor traffic, littering, parking, or non-moving citation which carries a fine of less than $150-$250, you may want to reconsider asking for a “free” attorney.