Unfortunately there is no right to an attorney in traffic matters, so you would have to retain an attorney at your own cost. However, you are on the right track by preparing a game plan if the officer shows up.
Generally a good strategy if the officer shows up is to announce your name to the line of waiting officers, see which one has your case and politely ask to speak to them. Most offi era are understanding and are willing to discuss the matter.
While you are speaking to then, DO NOT admit fault or talk about the circumstances at all, you could either inadvertany admit guilty or if your not careful intimidate a witness. You can, however try and negotiate the punishment if you plea to a non-moving infraction. VC 23103 is a common infraction officers are willing to allow you to plea to. It gets the fines punishment without a point.
Many factors will go into whether the officer is willing to amend the complaint for this offense. These include how you treated the officer when they encountered you, how fast or reckless they believe you were traveling and, unfortunately, which side of the bed they woke up on that morning. Good luck.
I'm sorry to say this but you have, by your own explanation, just admitted your guilt. I guess your strategy is to hope that the officer does not appear. If this is in Bakersfield, I assure you that your officer will show up.
The part about retaining an attorney if you can't afford one is likely something you read somewhere about indigent client's having the right to defense counsel ("attorney"). Attorney & lawyer are interchangeable. Everyone has a right to a lawyer, even a "free one" (paid for by tax payers) - but this only applies when you're facing criminal charges (i.e. misdemeanor or felony).
I don't know what you were cited for but if it's a traffic citation, it's likely an infraction. You have no right to a "free" lawyer for an infraction because there is no possibility for jail time.
Consider the impact of a conviction on you premiums being increased. Use that dollar figure and compare it to what an attorney will cost. If it's the increase in insurance premiums is lower than your lawyer fees, you have your decision made for you mathematically. Just remember that you're only calculating *THIS* conviction so if you rack up anymore tickets, your insurance premiums increase at an exponential rate.
This is NOT legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists.
If the officer shows up and your ticket is a moving violation, you can ask the officer to amend the citation to a non moving violation like VC 21710 or VC 38300 in order to avoid a point on your record if you're not traffic school eligible.