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Key Points in this Article

  • A PJC is defined as a “Prayer for Judgement Continued”
  • It’s “sort of” like a pardon from the judge
  • If the judge gives you a PJC on a traffic case there will be no insurance or license points for that offense
  • A PJC can only be used once every 3 years in your household (not per person, but per household)

It’s like a “get out of jail for free” card

A PJC, or Prayer for Judgment Continued is “sort of” like a pardon from the judge. As far as I know it only exists in North Carolina criminal and traffic court. Other states may have a law or their judges may have some powers that are sort of the same, but as far as I know the PJC is only a thing in NC. Many folks want to use one to avoid the consequences of something that they did and use it as sort of a “get out of jail free” card, but there are a lot of questions out there. Let me see if I can answer some.

What’s up with the religious name?

About the name: The “prayer” part doesn’t have anything to do with praying to God. The word “prayer” in the legal world means “request”. So “prayer for judgment continued” means someone is requesting the judgment to be continued (usually it’s the person who needs the PJC!). The “judgment” part is the thing where the judge punishes you for what you did. He “judges” that you need to pay a fine or go to jail or get put on probation etc etc. The “continued” part means that the judge continues (puts off or postpones) the entry of the judgment against you. That can mean that the judge can wait and do it later or it can mean that he puts it off FOREVER and never enters a judgment against you.
Put it all together and PJC means you can request (pray) that the judge put off (continue) the judgment (punishment of fine or jail or whatever).

When can you use one of these “PJC” things?

The most common use of the PJC in North Carolina is in traffic cases. Here’s how it works: There is sort of an agreement between the court and the DMV and the NC insurance department that says the following:
If the judge gives you a PJC on a traffic case there will be no insurance or license points for that offense.
So if the judge gives you a PJC, then your insurance won’t go up for that offense and you won’t accumulate points.

There are important exceptions

But this doesn’t mean you can use the PJC all the time to save your ass. There are exceptions.
  1. The PJC is entirely up to the judge. He can give it or not. He can also make you do stuff to earn it (like community service or driving classes or a letter of apology to the lady you cut off in traffic or whatever). So don’t think that “it’s yours to use”; it’s totally up to the judge.
  2. The DMV and the insurance department keep track of these PJC’s and, even if the judge gives you one, the effect of avoiding points and insurance increase is true only if you use a maximum of ONE PJC per HOUSEHOLD per three-year period. What is household? Better ask your insurance agent, but basically it means all the insured drivers living together under one roof. So if your dad used a PJC last year and you live together (and are or can be insured on the same policy), the PJC may not prevent the insurance company from jacking your rates. It doesn’t prevent the Judge from giving you a PJC but it also does not prevent the DMV from noting the PJC on your driving record.  It also means that the insurance company doesn’t have to pay attention to it and CAN jack your rates for the offense that was PJC’d.

Two PJCs every 5 years

That being said, there is another rule about using two every five years. Here’s an example: Say you had a stop sign ticket a year ago. You asked the judge for a PJC and he gave it to you. Cool. But then, later that year, you got a seatbelt ticket and forgot to take care of it. The court notified the DMV and they suspended your license for not paying it. So then to add more bad stuff on top, you get stopped later for speeding (again). This time, although the cop doesn’t catch it and maybe you don’t even know, your license is suspended for not paying the seatbelt. Now, all of this happened within a one-year period and because you used the one PJC on the stop sign you can’t do the “one every three years” to kill insurance points on this new speeding ticket. But the “two every five years” rule can still save your license at least.
You see, if you just go on and “pay” the speeding ticket, on line or whatever, you will be pleading guilty to a moving violation that happened WHILE your license was suspended and that will mean more suspension. To avoid this, you would go to court and ask the judge for a PJC on the new speeding ticket. That PJC would prevent the speeding ticket from being used as a conviction to further suspend your license. You have just used TWO PJC’s in a period of one year. That’s fine! The only thing is that you WILL see insurance points from both offenses on which you used PJCs BUT you will have saved your license. Sort of a trade-off. Now, having used TWO in a one-year period, you cannot use another and get the insurance points benefit until FIVE years goes by from the last one. Like I say, one every three years for insurance points, two every five years to save your license.

The effect of PJCs in criminal court

PJC’s in criminal court are a good deal less common than in traffic court and are not used to avoid insurance points or license revocation. In criminal court the PJC is just a tool that the judge can use to help him fashion an appropriate judgement. One example is where say, in a drug-trafficking case the defendant decides to snitch on the big dealer who sold him the drugs so the defendant can get a better deal in his own case. The defendant, after cutting such a deal with the DA, pleads guilty to some offense or other and then the judge “continues judgment” and lets the guy go and set up a deal to help the cops catch the big dealer. Then later, that guy comes back to court and the judge enters the judgment against him (which is much lighter a punishment than he would have gotten if he had not helped the cops get the bigger dealer).
So in this case, you see the PJC used to “continue judgment” for some set period of time, after which judgment is entered against the defendant. This same sort of thing can be used in cases not so serious as drug trafficking. Often the DA in a domestic violence case will allow a defendant to plead guilty and then continue the case so the defendant can attend classes or drug treatment etc. When all that’s been done successfully, the defendant comes back to court and the judge “PJC’s” the case FOREVER so that there is never any punishment entered against the defendant.
Some folks maintain that this means there has never really been a conviction since there is no judgment. Others say that this means there is a conviction but only the punishment part has been continued. Suffice it to say that there may be ways to argue either depending on the facts of the case and what the objectives are (better ask your lawyer!).
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