Prayer for Judgement Continued (PJC) in North Carolina
You’ll often hear the term “PJC" thrown around when talking with an attorneyor someone who’s recently gotten (or thinks they’ve gotten out of) a speeding ticket.
In North Carolina traffic law, PJC stands for Prayer for Judgement Continued. You see, NC has this little tweek in the traffic and infraction laws that let you “pray" for the Court to “continue your judgement" or suspend making a ruling on this particular issue. Essentially, when you ask the Court for a PJC, you’re telling the court “It was a mistake, I promise I’ll never do it again." In return for that pseudo-promise, the Court doesn’t convict you for whatever that was (let’s say speeding). At least they don’t do it right now.
See, that’s the catch. In North Carolina, you’re only allowed 1 PJC every three years, per household. If, within 3 years, you commit the same offense or something very similar, the Court revokes the PJC and charges you with both offenses at that time. So, let’s say that you’re caught speeding. You go into court and ask for a PJC. Let’s review some options:
- Option 1 – you’ve got a clean record, and no one in your house has used a PJC in the last 3 years. Great! The Court grants the PJC, you pay your court costs, you go home and everything is great. Just don’t do it again!
- Option 2 – you’ve got a clean record, but your sister, who lives with you, used a PJC last year when she ran a stop sign. Too bad. You’re out of luck and on the hook for the speeding ticket, the court costs, the insurance increase and the points on your license. Not a great outcome.
- Option 3 – you’ve got a couple of speeding tickets in the past few years, but you’ve always paid them by sending in the money and the ticket on time. You’ve never used a PJC, and no one in your house has either. Great! The Court grants the PJC, you pay your court costs, you go home and everything is great. Just don’t do it again!
- Option 4 – you used your PJC a year ago for running a stop sign. Now you’re up for a speeding ticket. The Court sees you’ve got a PJC for a similar offense, and revokes the PJC. Now you’re up for the speeding ticket fine, the court costs from the speeding ticket, the stop sign ticket fine, the insurance increase for both tickets, and (probably) driver’s license points for both tickets. The worst outcome.
So, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, if the chances are only 50/50 that I could get a good outcome, why would I use a PJC? I should just pay the ticket!" Maybe, maybe not.
See, if you use a PJC and keep clean for three years, at the end the PJC evaporates and your charges with it! That means that while you’re under the PJC any points (insurance or driver’s license points) don’t count against you. When the PJC is over, if you’ve kept clean, it’s like the ticket never happened, the points don’t ever count against you. Now, if you paid the ticket, you’d be paying the fine, the court costs, and get the points assessed against you. Whether you use a PJC or not, you’re likely to get stuck with court costs. If you use the PJC, you generally pay the court costs, but not the fine. It’s cheaper in the short term and in the long term if you use a PJC and keep your record clean.
If you can foresee a time (for whatever reason) that you may get caught with a worse offense than you’re up for right now, it may make sense to save your PJC for later or for someone else in the house – say… for your 16 year old daughter who can barely afford the insurance as it is. Also, you can’t use a PJC for just any offense. If you’re collared on a DUI, don’t ask for a PJC, they’ll laugh at you. And the Court can decide not grant a PJC in a given situation if they think you don’t deserve it (for example, you were caught speeding but it was while you were passing a highway patrol car in active pursuit). Knowing when, and how, to use a PJC is one of the reasons that you may want a lawyer to help you with the process, even though you could represent yourself.