An Explanation of the Mysterious Prayer for Judgment Continued
Time and again I’m confronted with potential traffic ticket clients who ask me about the Prayer for Judgment Continued, or as it’s known by its acronym, the PJC. Many folks I’ve spoken to have felt this was the magic bullet for any traffic ticket in North Carolina. Some have been cautious enough to attempt to comprehend its various attributes, but I’ve never spoken with a non-attorney who actually understood what it was, what it did, and when it’s useful. I’ve also spoken to several attorneys who were just as uninformed. The reason why isn’t that people are generally silly, it’s that it’s a rather complicated concept with several rules that require detailed explanation to understand. So I thought I’d give it a try to help folks out.
What does it mean? Let’s break it down. “Prayer" is simply a request to the court (as if the court is comprised of deities who would not deign to respond to a lowly “request"). “Judgment" is the official ruling of the court, as in Guilty, Responsible, Not Guilty, etc. “Continued" means it’s put off for a time, in this case, indefinitely. You put these together and you get the idea that the PJC is a request that the ruling of the court be put off indefinitely. There ya go! That takes some of the mystery out of it, right? An interesting little aside in this regard is that I have often heard clients suggest, and attorney says in court, that they would like a “Prayer for Judgment." If you look behind those words, that means they’re asking the court to render a judgment, which is not exactly the same as postponing a judgment, is it? The court normally knows what they mean, but still, some judges can be sticklers, so be careful.
What does it do? Just like the translation implies, the PJC postpones the entry of the courts’ ruling indefinitely (in theory). The effect of this is that the court in essence never officially comes down with a ruling so there’s never an entry of guilty or responsible for the defendant. This is why it’s a good thing. If the court doesn’t enter the finding of guilt, then there can’t be any consequences, can there? In other words, PJCs do not count as convictions. There are several newly carved exceptions to the use of the PJC, such as in cases where the charge is speeding over 25 mph over the limit, so sometimes, they are simply not allowed even if the judge is inclined and it would help you, so once again, be careful.
When do you use it? Unlike the prevailing opinion amongst jailhouse lawyers and your brother-in-law who gets tickets all the time, the answer to this question is not “every time you get a ticket." As noted above, the PJC is, in theory, an indefinite postponement of your guilty or responsible plea, which makes it as if it didn’t happen. But the “in theory" part is an important part of that explanation. The PJC can be defeated by overuse. Pay close attention to the following note:
You get ONE PJC PER HOUSEHOULD every three years for insurance purposes. You get TWO PJCs PER PERSON every 5 years for DMV purposes.
What? I know, that’s weird and confusing. Allow me to explain…
For every conviction of a moving violation you may be penalized through the assignment of points on your record. Each violation will have its own amount of points set by statute, and DMV points differ from insurance points in amount for most violations. For example, an Exceeding Safe Speed charge carries 2 DMV points and 1 insurance points. Moreover, these points have different affects. DMV points do nothing until you get 12 of them, at which point you lose your license. You can have 11 with no DMV consequences. Insurance points can increase your insurance premiums for every point you have, so the effect is cumulative. Not good.
If you use a PJC, you can avoid points from the conviction because it does not count as a conviction. Great!
But remember the limits above. For insurance purposes, you only get one per household every three years. So if you live with other drivers in your home, only one of you can use a PJC within a three year time period. If another of you uses one, neither of you will enjoy the benefit of the PJC for insurance purposes and both of you will feel the effects of the assigned points.
For DMV purposes, you can use two PJCs in a 5 year period. For example, let’s say Husband and Wife both get tickets, one after another. Husband uses a PJC. Hooray, no worries! Then Wife uses a PJC. Boo! Now BOTH get the insurance point effects because you only get ONE per household. However, each can use TWO PJCs in a 5 year period, so neither will suffer the effect of DMV points for that conviction. Let’s say Husband gets another ticket and uses another PJC next year. They are both still on the hook for insurance points for their previous conviction, but the PJC still works for DMV points on his new conviction. Now he’s all used up and can’t use another PJC in a 5 year period. In other words, if Husband uses a third PJC in a five year period, he will lose the DMV point benefits of each PJC. Boo, again.
That still doesn’t create a bright line test for when you use a PJC, sadly. It’s a little simpler to explain when you SHOULD NOT use a PJC:
DO NOT USE A PJC WHEN…
a reduction to a non-moving violation is available
you can get a reduction to a speeding charge of 10 over the limit or less AND you don’t have any other convictions in the last three years
when you have used two PJCs in the past 5 years
most of the time, when anyone in your household has used one (but sometimes the PJC would still be a good outcome under certain circumstances)
Did that help anyone understand the mysterious PJC a little more? Probably not. I think the moral of this little diddy is to not just think of the PJC as traffic ticket panacea. If you have any doubt about whether or not you should use one, call someone who has a bit of knowledge about these things.