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In a DUI case, can I request a public defender?

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I was arrested after coming from a friends weding and got taken in after passing the FST but failing the Breathalizer, I was not reminded of my rights and a court date was set. The officer told me that I was just driving a little too fast (80 on a 65 mph zone). I was cooperative and told them that I had been drinking earlier, I was taken to the station and they gave me ablood test. I was never told what my BAC was.
When I went to court I was told that the DA had not turned in any papers and that I should call the following week to check on the status of my court date, but no one took the time to notify me. I have to go to court next week and I was thinking of retaining a lawyer, but it would cost me more than any fines I'd have to pay in addition to. I was told to get a copy of the police report and the charges, in case i decided to have an attorney present. My questions though are: Can I request a Public Defender? If so, what's the process? and finally, can anything that happened or didn't happen have a positive impact on my case? Thanks.
In California, first offense ever.

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