Prayer for Judgment Continued
WHAT IS A PJC?
A Prayer for Judgment Continued, or PJC, is a possible disposition in criminal cases in North Carolina. A PJC is an adjudication of guilt by the court, without an entry of judgment. Therefore, a PJC is technically not a conviction because no final judgment has been entered, because in the traditional sense, a conviction is an adjudication of guilt accompanied by an entry of judgment. However, in certain contexts, a PJC can be treated as a conviction. Whether or not a PJC may be treated as a conviction in a particular context is subject to change. There have been cases where a trial court has not treated a PJC as a conviction, and upheld by the court of appeals, only to be reversed by the Supreme Court. To find out if a PJC may be treated as a conviction in a particular context, consult with an attorney well versed in North Carolina Criminal law. Also, be aware there may be some degree of uncertainty in some cases. There are contexts where the law is clear about when a PJC will be treated as a conviction - some of which are discussed below.
In most cases, other than the imposition of court costs, there is no penalty imposed. A PJC is usually obtained after a plea of guilty but sometimes a judge may enter a PJC after a not guilty plea after a finding of guilt in a trial. In North Carolina, a PJC is generally considered a conviction for most purposes but not for all. And, although a judgment has not been entered, theoretically a judgment could be entered and punishment imposed if prohibited conduct is discovered by the court after the judgment is continued. However, this rarely happens.
For automobile insurance purposes, one can have up to one PJC per household every three years that will not cause insurance premium increases. For driver’s license purposes, with some exceptions, a driver can have up to two PJC's within a five year period which will not result in driver’s license points nor have any effect on the driving record of the person receiving the PJC (except that one of the two PJC's per five years is thereby used and will appear on one’s DMV record). PJC’s do not protect drivers who have a CDL for DMV purposes or insurance purposes. Some offenses do not qualify for PJC’s such as DWI’s, and after December 1, 2007, for speeding charges for more than 25 mph over the limit. However, there is speculation that this provision may be challenged in the courts and therefore may be subject to change in the future.
For criminal defendants, PJC’s are considered convictions in most cases for the determination of the sentencing level upon conviction of a crime. For impeachment purposes–that is when a person is testifying in court and the opposite side wants to use a criminal conviction for purpose of impeaching their credibility–a PJC after a not guilty plea may not be considered a conviction, but a PJC after a guilty plea is considered a conviction.
In general, if our clients are concerned about whether or not they need to reveal a criminal charge for which they received a PJC on an application or otherwise, we first recommend that our clients always be truthful. Specifically, we recommend that if the question is: "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" and the person answering has a criminal charge which resulted in a PJC, the client should answer the question "no," but should immediately indicate that the person answering received a PJC on the charge, and state that you understand that a PJC is not a conviction because no judgment has been entered.
If a PJC was granted in District Court, in some cases after a period of time, it may be possible to have judgment entered, appeal, and then have the charge dismissed. If this is accomplished, then there is clearly no conviction. Please call us for a confidential consultation if you have any questions about PJC’s in North Carolina.