Thank you for your question.
While the procedure can vary slightly from court
to court -- and therefore there is no one standard procedure -- to get a public defender a person must first appear in court and have their case called by the judge and request a court appointed lawyer (normally when the judge sees you standing there without a lawyer, the first thing they are going to ask is if you have a lawyer or if you need one). Once the request is made, then the judge is required to find out if you qualify for the services of the public defender's office. Those guidelines can vary state to state, even county to county. If you have no income, and no property, however, you should qualify. Some public defender's offices are entirely free, others do impose a small fee at the conclusion of the case.
In some counties, the judge will immediately make the decision as to whether you qualify or not, while in others, a defendant must fill out paperwork showing their income and assets, and then a determination is made later. What is important to know is that the case will not move forward until a determination is made - in other words, you aren't going to be expected to show up to your first court appearance ready to go to trial
or anything like that.
Thus, while the general procedures are always the same (a defendant must first appear in court, tell the judge they need a public defender and then are asked about their ability to pay) the process can vary slightly state to state, county to county. As such, you may want to place a call to your county's Office of the Public Defender and inquire what the procedure is so you are familiar with it on your court date.