Prayer for Judgment Continued: the Facts, the Myths, the Legend

by Courtney Ballard

The legend of a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) has been around for decades. As a teenager, I thought every traffic ticket could be solved by a PJC, and today, I continue to have clients ask “Can I get a Prayer for Judgment Continued?”

While a PJC is often thought of having the same effect as the holy grail, it is commonly misunderstood. In North Carolina, a Prayer for Judgment Continued allows the court to withhold entering a judgment in a case after a defendant has pled guilty or been found guilty. N.C.G.S. 15A-101(4a). See also State v. Van Trusell, 170 N.C. App. 33, 38, 612 S.E.2d 195, 198 (2005).

A court may grant a PJC in both criminal and traffic offenses. Below are a few common traffic scenarios.

Scenario 1: A PJC will prevent my insurance from increasing.

Fact. The North Carolina Department of Insurance Safe Driver Incentive Plan allows one (1) PJC per household every three (3) years without charging additional insurance points. However, a second PJC by a household member may cause insurance points to be assessed for both underlying convictions. Thus, it is important for an attorney to know the driving history of all household members before requesting the court grant a PJC.

Scenario 2: I can get a PJC on my Driving While Impaired charge.

Myth. A PJC cannot be entered for an impaired driving charge. N.C.G.S. 20-179. The North Carolina Legislature enacted mandatory sentences for impaired driving convictions in North Carolina General Statute 20-179. Therefore, a court cannot grant a PJC where the underlying charge is based on impaired driving. This applies to both Driving While Impaired and Driving with License Revoked for Impaired Driving convictions.

Scenario 3: I can get a PJC on my speeding ticket 90 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone.

Myth. North Carolina General Statute 20-141 prohibits a court from entering a PJC in cases where the “driver is charged with speeding in excess of 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.” N.C.G.S. 20-141(p). A conviction of speeding more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit can increase your insurance by 80 percent for the next three (3) years, place three (3) points on your driver’s license, and potentially suspend your license. A knowledgable attorney will review your driving record and advise you on the potential outcome of a speeding conviction.

Scenario 4: A PJC can prevent my license from getting revoked.

Fact. The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) honors two (2) PJCs, per driver, every five (5) years. A PJC prevents driver’s license points from being assessed. Additionally, a PJC on a Driving while License Revoked for Non-Impaired Driving prevents the DMV from automatically revoking your license for an additional year.

Scenario 5: A PJC is my best option to avoid insurance increase

Myth. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are other avenues to reduce or prevent your insurance from increasing. A common alternative is a reduction to a non-moving violation. Unlike the PJC, there are no limits on how many non-moving violations you can receive. However, the state will consider a variety of factors when determining whether to reduce a traffic ticket to a non-moving violation. An experienced attorney will be able to advise you on the likelihood of a reduction.

A PJC can also be used in other scenarios such as misdemeanor and felony charges. Contact an attorney at Smith Horton Law today to see if a PJC is right for you.