Prayer for Judgment Continued

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It has become clear to me in my work with judges and lawyers around the state that use of prayer for judgment continued—a practice virtually unique to North Carolina, at least by that name—varies. The long-running James Johnson case in Wilson concluded last week with a PJC (story here), prompting me to make the first of what will probably be many posts on the subject. I thought I’d start with something we know for sure: how PJCs count for prior record level purposes.

Our appellate courts made clear in State v. Hatcher, 136 N.C. App. 524 (2000), and a number of other cases that a PJC counts for prior record points. That conclusion stems from G.S. 15A-1331(b), which reads “[f]or the purpose of imposing sentence, a person has been convicted when he has been adjudged guilty or has entered a plea of no contest.” It’s the adjudication of guilt, not the entry of judgment that matters.

I have heard the argument that PJCs for misdemeanors shouldn’t count for prior record level points because, under G.S. 15A-1340.11(7)(a), a conviction of a crime in the district court is a “prior conviction” only when the person has not given notice of appeal and the time for appeal has expired. (Unlike superior court convictions, which are deemed final regardless of pending appeal to the appellate division.) Because no judgment is entered when a misdemeanor conviction is followed by a PJC, no appeal is possible. Because no appeal is yet possible, the argument continues, the time for appeal has not technically expired, and the conviction is therefore not a prior conviction. It’s not a frivolous argument, but in State v. Canellas, 164 N.C. App. 775 (2004), the court applied the same analysis it used in Hatcher to conclude that a defendant’s PJC for assault on a female should count for prior record purposes.

The rule seems clear enough, but if there are nuances to it in practice that aren’t clear from the cases, I’d love to hear about them.

Category: Sentencing, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

66 comments on “Prayer for Judgment Continued

  1. For what it’s worth, my understanding is that the appealability of a PJC depends on whether the PJC is a final judgment. If the PJC is accompanied by conditions constituting punishment (e.g., a fine), the PJC is a final judgment and the defendant may appeal. See State v. Griffin, 246 N.C. 680, 683, 100 S.E.2d 49, 51 (1957). If, however, no conditions are imposed, the PJC is not a final judgment and the defendant may not appeal. See State v. Pledger, 257 N.C. 634, 638, 127 S.E.2d 337, 340 (1962); see also State v. Perry, 316 N.C. 87, 93-95, 340 S.E.2d 450, 455 (1986).

  2. My parter and I are of the opinion that our PJC clients should contact us one year after their PJC is entered for us to file a Motion to Dismiss based upon their compliance with the terms of the PJC; i.e., violate no laws for 12 months. It is our hope this will solve this issue, especially when dealing with the USSG for our federal clients.

    • plz help me im trying to find out if i can enter a prayer for judgment for my son,s father. he got a marajuana charge for possesion and they gave him 8 to 10 months we were not exspecting it and now i know i cant pay all the bills alone they want him to turn himself in on friday. is it too late? does this apply to us? could it help

    • Can you tell me how to go about getting a Motion to Dismiss. In August 2011 I was given a pjc for assault w/deadly weapon, and even though I was told it doesn’t count as a conviction I am devastated emotionally by this, and I am not sure wheater or not it will show up on pre-employment background checks.

      • You cannot dismiss a PJC, that is the point. You get the benefit of not having an actual conviction on your record, but you cannot ever get rid of it. A PJC puts your case in procedural limbo with no way to ever get out of it.

        • OK,

          Thanks for the info. Assuming that a potential employer does a pre-employment background check for convictions, does any info on the pjc come up?

          • I have a pjc for april 2015 however I violated the exparte and was to pled guilty to stalking in order for all other charges on the pjc to be dropped. I still have to show up for my pjc charges in april. what will happen to me

    • In Aug. 2011 I received a pjc for assault w/deadly weapon. In Wake County NC. I have been told that I can’t get it dismissed, but your post says It can be done. If there is a way please let me know how.

  3. Regarding the last reply, I’m unclear as to the grounds on which the matter is being “dismissed.” I assume the defendant was adjudicated guilty (by plea or trial) prior to the judge continuing prayer for judgment. At that point I don’t see any way the judge can later “undo” the conviction, even if the defendant complies with the terms of the PJC. That strikes me as something the DA could have done via deferred prosecution, but not something the judge is empowered to do.

    • I pled guilty to stalking after the pjc was issued pled guilty to get all other charges dismissed

      • I was put on 18 months probation misdemnor stalking and violation of exparte

  4. Well here is my delima, I plead NG to a misdermeanor offense and in return the presiding Judge entered me into prayer for judgement continued.

    And now it has been a year since the PJC was entered and I am being told many different things. Since there are no conditions on my PJC what do I do to get out of this.

    File a motion to dismiss???? Go back to court and just have judgement entered. Then file an appeal to a higher court. Or see if the motion will go through since its been a year can somebody give me some sort of remedy.

  5. A new COA case, State v. Popp, http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2009/080985-1.htm, illustrates a PJC that isn’t really a PJC. When conditions go beyond a requirement to obey the law, the PJC is a final judgment.

    • see state v brown, this was the original case in which it explained a pjc with sentence imposed became a final judgment, then later state v popp came into play where the conditions set also made that pjc a final judgment.

  6. Surmising what was just noted above in the discussion. If you plead NG or no contest followed by a prayer for judgment with no conditions or punishment it is not able to be appealed, therefore it cannot possibly count as a conviction. If it does count as a conviction, judges would enter PFJ, so that the defendant cannot appeal which looks like a miscarriage of justice. However, if the judge imposed conditions over and above obeying the law and paying court costs, and is not appealed, a writ of habeas corpus is not filed, or any other motion for appropriate relief is not filed, in the established timeframe, it does count as a conviction. Correct me if I am wrong.

    • well theres no case right on point, sentence imposed on a pjc like probation, or community service = final judgment like in state v popp and state v brown. but the question is when you get a pjc like in state v popp where there was a final judgment in a case, is felony punishment or imprisonment for over a year permissible ??????????????????????????????????????????????

      that would answer the question of the felony firearms act gs 14-415.1, in that statue it stated that a person is a convicted felon for purposes of gs 14-415.1 if the person recived a final judgment in which felony imprisonment or punsihment exceeding one year is permissible with out regard to the plea entered or sentence imposed.

      so the question is if a defendant gets a pjc for a felony with sentence imposed does it count as a conviction for gs 14-415.1? and there really is no clear answer.

      my answer is NO. because with a pjc for a felony you cannot be sentenced to any active time, and you cannot get felony punishment for a term of more than a year.

  7. What about a pjc, on condition someone pays the costs of court, and their court-appointed attorney’s fees?

    • you cant appeal it, and if it was a felony you cannot get a pistol permit see friend v state.

  8. How often are you allowed a PJC in regards to insurance companies?

  9. Under the Safe Driver Incentive Plan, no insurance points are assessed for one PJC for each household every three years. See http://www.ncdoi.com/consumer/consumer_publications/automobile%20and%20vehicle/it%20pays%20to%20be%20a%20safe%20driver%20(insurance%20points).pdf.

  10. heres a question. does a pjc with no sentence imposed on a class i felony count as a conviction for the felony firearms act ncgs 14-415.1? and dont cite state v friend because that only counted as a conviction for ncgs 14-404 and thats the permit purchase statue.
    also iv been charged with firearm by felon because of my prior pjc with no sentence imposed. my atty said i have a da in mecklenburg county that has it out for me. so what does anyone think about this.

    • Go ask your attorney, that is what you are paying them for.

      • raumeen shiraz: I think the rationale behind Friend (similar to State v. Watts, 72 N.C. App. 661) would probably also apply here — but you appear to be correct that there’s no case precisely on point.

        • well thankyou for agreeing with me jamie. and ill keep all of you posted on how this case goes in mecklenburg county courthouse.

      • to Prosecutor: yes this is true, but i also like knowing whats going on here and i like knowing the law. i only go target shooting and the da is making such a big deal about it, i guess he thinks im dangerous which im not. i cant go into detail on line to why he thinks this but i can say i had a friend commit suicide in my car and thats how the found the firearm.

        • Well let me tell you that I find it hard to believe an Assistant District Attorney would even have the time, let alone the resources, to carry out a personal vendetta against you. Based on some Googling and the Meck SO Arrest Inquiry, I am pretty sure your cases are pending in Mecklenburg County. I find it hard to believe that anyone in that office has any time to target any real offender, let alone someone who does not have much of a record at all. The fact that your case even got past the screening phase tells me that there is a lot more to your case than just a little bit of, “target practice.”

          As far as the PJC on the felonies. You had better consider yourself very lucky to have gotten that. You won’t get that anywhere else. The fact that you have picked up another felony since then shows that the judge made a poor decision with that PJC.

          • the pjc that was given was for a class I felony for poss. of gun on edu. property. which was a hunting rifle i used for target shooting. i had the gun in my trunk and i was leaving school when someone reported seeing a gun in the trunk of my car, then a teacher searched my trunk and found it. i was leaving school and it was not like i had brought it into school.

            no mr.prosecutor really just target shooting with the guns only. the detectives know it, the atf knows it, the city police know it, and yet they still charge me. never been in a fight in my life or bothered anyone in my life, i keep to my self, and they harass me.

            “picked up another felony since” well you tell me is owning a firearm a crime if the person possessing it is not a felon, the F/A is not stolen, and is used for lawful purposes.

            also if you looked at the MCSO arrest inq. you saw a GJI but i am totally innocent of that charge.

          • oh and also one more thing, the ada in mecklenburg county has charged me with F/A by felon two years ago before this F/A by felon charge this year. and two years ago i filed a motion to dismiss after the pc hearing and my motion was granted by the judge. so this is not the first time this has happened to me, and the way i got caught with that firearm two years ago was in a car accident.

            one other thing, the guy that commited suicide in my car has a family member as a ADA.

  11. also iv taken constitutional law before in class and i fell this is wrong that they are trying to charge me

  12. ive been charged with driving while license revoked( violating limited privilege) i have since regained my NCDL. i cannot afford a private attorney and court appointed are useless. how do i go about asking judge for a PJC? ive never had one before. beaufort county, nc

  13. Can pfj on assault on female from 10yrs ago be dismiised espeically when I have proof that physicallyimpossible due to disability

    • Hey Tim did you ever get an answer to your question and what is your status… I have a similar problem… I pleaded NG and the judge gave me PJC assault on a female, I have no priors and nothing since and it’s been 11 yrs… The trooper lied under oath and now I am being held up for a pistol permit in Maryland

  14. I was arrested in 2001 on resist public officer charges in Mecklenburg. I was 18 years old. I remember receiving a pjc, paying $90 and going home…My lawyer specifically told me that I could check “no” on employment applications. Recently, this charge came up as a conviction on an employment background check used by a state university. The record at Mecklenburg Superior Court also shows this as a conviction. I had one other arrest about 4 months later on drunk and disorderly, which was dismissed by the da. If the pjc had conditions (which I don’t remember my lawyer telling me about) could that arrest have changed this over to a conviction?

    Is there any way to get this changed back to a pjc? Is expungement possible? I have been in no other trouble since and would prefer not to have to explain this on ALL the applications.

  15. Hello, I received a ticket for running a stop sign appx 4 mos ago. I wasn’t aware of a pjc and just paid the ticket I was wondering if it is too late to obtain a pjc or did i need to request this at the time of the court date?

    • Hey Michelle,
      Generally you would have to bring a “motion for appropriate relief” to set aside your “conviction” and reenter it as a pjc. This is not that big a deal for lawyers that do a lot of traffic work. An attorney may also recommend that you do the MAR and then try for a plea to a reduced charge, such as “improper equipment” or some other plea that won’t cost you DMV points.
      You may be wise to save your PJC for some other, more serious offense.

  16. I haven’t seen a question about my situation here.

    I am currently in a custody fight for my children with their father. In 2000 this man plead guilty to assault on a female (me). As a requirement, he had to attend DOM VIO classes, SAFE child classes, and continue to see his psychiatrist (who diagnosed him as bipolar).

    The draft of the court order that his attorney has typed up says that he was granted a PJC, but that it was “dismissed.” Since this guy has other DOM VIO charges that were dismissed, I want at least THIS one to show up and to be counted where this custody case is concerned.

    From what I have read, since there were other requirements besides the court costs, it seems like he could not have had this dismissed. Since it costs money now for me to even find out, I’m hoping that someone here more knowledgeable can tell me: Is it possible that this was dismissed, as he is now contending? He plead guilty. He had requirements to meet. Does this stick as a conviction?

    Thanks.

  17. Meg: Based on the facts you provided it sounds to me like this was a conviction followed by entry of judgment under the rational of State v. Popp, discussed here http://sogweb.sog.unc.edu/blogs/ncclaw/?p=377.

  18. This is my dilemma. I was pulled over for 82 on a 55mph on 421 in Boone, North Carolina. The officer never gave me a ticket but a court date instead. I should have hired a lawyer but I figured I could just do it on my own. I asked for a PJC and the judge granted it to me. But a week later, I received a letter in the mail saying that my license is suspended and I’m able to obtain a hearing a month from now. Why are they still taking my license if I was granted the PJC? Should I hire a lawyer for this?

  19. here is my dilemma: i got a pjc in NC 4 years ago for a misdemeanor while in college. currently i live in virginia and am seeking a professional designation for career purposes. one of the questions on the application is have you ever been convicted of a crime, had a judgment withheld or deferred, or are you currently charged with commiting a crime? what should my answer be? when i got the PJC, all i did was pay court costs and leave…no conditions, and i did not have to return to court at a later date, as far as i was concerned everything was dismissed.

    • I’m in a similar situation in a different state than NC. I would love to know the answer to this.

  20. In 2003, I was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, and was granted a PJC. The offence didnt happen on school or Federal property—it happened on the side of the highway.
    My question is will this conviction disqualify me from receiving a NC concealed carry permit?

  21. Mel Reaves: If your 2003 PJC was for a violation of G.S. 14-415.21(b), then the sheriff must deny your permit under G.S. 14-415.12(b)(8)–

    “The sheriff shall deny a permit to an applicant who:
    (8) Is or has been adjudicated guilty of or received a prayer for judgment continued or suspended sentence for one or more crimes of violence constituting a misdemeanor, including but not limited to, a violation of a misdemeanor under Article 8 of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes, or a violation of a misdemeanor under . . . 14‑415.21(b) . . . .”

  22. Does Florida recognize the N. Carolina PJC (Prayer for Judgement) As I understand PJC does not add point to your license that might otherwise impact ones insurance rates. I was charged for failure to yield right of way resulting in an accident. My insurance company (Auto Owners) will be taking care of all damages. I’m wondering if I should go back to NC for the court date and ask for PJC or simply pay the ticket. If Florida and my insurance company treats PJC as it does for NC drivers, I’m thinking it would be worth my time – your thoughts?

    Thank you – Harold

  23. My brother filled a false police report, about his car being stolen, but he really sold it for drugs. He had just gotten out of a behavior center 2 days before do to having a mental break down. He told the officer the truth except about the drugs so wwhen the officer found out the truth he asked him to come clean and told him everything. He wrote him a citaion for court. What is going to happen wwhen he goes to court?

  24. I had a speeding ticket of 93 in 65 in North Carolina. I was a resident of South Carolina and have South Carolina drivers license. I hired a lawyer and was convicted as is. I was not aware of PFJ at that time. I came to know of PFJ later and asked my lawyers assistant about it and she says it is only for NC residents. Is PFJ only for NC residents? If it is applicable for other state residents as well, can I reopen my case and file for PFJ now so that I can have the misdemeanor taken off my record? If yes, can somebody please recommend a good lawyer.

  25. My friend have been employed with this company for four years and the company is merging with a hospital. She never been arrested, The hospital notified her and said they would not be able to hire her because of a simple assault charge that happened sixteen years ago. Is this even legal? Normally a company go back seven to ten years not sixteen. What should she do?

  26. I am charge with provisional DWI (i am underage and blew a .05 and is my first time ever been charge with something), i consulted two lawyers about my case and was told that the best i could do was to aim for a PJC. what are my chances of getting a PJC?

  27. None.

  28. I was recently issued a speeding ticket (79MPH in a 65MPH zone). I have no prior tickets. This is the second time I’ve ever been pulled over and I’ve been driving for 12 years! I want to ask the judge for a PJC. I am currently unemployed and embarrassingly enough, had to move back in with my parents. I do not have the financial ability to hire a lawyer. Can I go to court myself and ask for a PJC? What do I say when they ask me to enter a plea? Guilty, not guilty, no contest?

    • Rachel, what ever happened in your case? Did you wind up representing yourself?

  29. I was charged in 2005 with “poss f-wn/lq/mxbv < 21" but was only holding bottle for a friend, now at age 25 and looking for employment, and also never had to go to court. Being said that, how would i go about that getting off my record or handled. (I've also had a previous expungement for another charge of different case).

  30. can a pfj be used in the case of not having a child in a booster seat?? my sister had the car seat and forgot to bring it me…i went through a license check and got a ticket because of this…this the 1st time this happened and is most definitely the last…please help i cant afford the ticket little lone this going on my record

  31. i received a prayer for judgement continued on a assult with a deadly weapon charge (my vehicle) i didnt hit the person but they walked out. the person gave my plate and i was charged. in court the judge allowed me to use a pjc with no judgement entered against me. however i didnt have to pay any fees at all thye conditions were to stay away from ms tina knowles the defendant who i dont even know. and i wanna know if i can expunge this because its affecting my life. i dont have no criminal record at all.

  32. if i got a driving while license revoked can i get a prayer for judgement

  33. I went to court for the first time in my life and received a PJC for a misdemeanor, simple assault in Dec 09. I never had to pay a fine, restitution, or Court Costs. When I pull my Background Check I just says Prayer for Judgment 120709 which was my court date. The Judge didn’t place any restrictions on me and my so called lawyer said my record would be clean in a year or two. Well it is still there. Is there anything I can do.

  34. I have a question whetever if you can use a prayer for judgement when you have already been in trouble?

  35. Are you able to ask for a pfj without having an attorney?

    • Bella Nicholson: Yes. There is no requirement to have a lawyer to ask for a PJC.

  36. I was recently in a car accident. I was driving without license and have a possesion of marijuana charge along with it. the charge was a misdimeanor (however you spell it). I was wondering if i could use a PJC for my case. Im 18 so im not a minor

  37. Hello! I am a Student at the Charlotte School of Law and have come across a question regarding a PJC in a misdemeanor case. If someone receives a PJC on 4/30/12 (without conditions) and it is past the 12 month period (9/19/13) in which a sentence could be imposed, does that make it a final judgment for purposes of attempting to obtain a COR (certificate of relief)? Thank you.

    • Did you find an answer to your question? I recieved a PJC for a Misdemeanor Hit and Run Property damage only, and I don’t want it to show up on a background check when I apply to grad school.

  38. In 2003 in Davidson County, NC my ex husband was convicted of Felony H Stalking charge and sentenced to 1 year in jail with a Prayer for Judgment contingent with no future violations. Us being involved in our community and after 9 continuances due to conflict of interest, a judge from Statesville, NC was pulled into our county courtroom to preside over the hearing.
    I am currently remarried and reside in Randolph County where I am very involved in our community efforts. For this reason I have a published phone number. Recently I am receiving numerous hang up phone calls. In doing a reverse search, google maps pulled up a building once operated as my ex husbands business area in Reidsville, NC.
    My current husband called the number and reached a voicemail message that sounds like my ex husband.
    My ex husband has attempted to contact me on various occasions in the last several years when I wasn’t present although witnesses were present to verify this. He had entered my business on an occasion I wasn’t there. He entered another business location he was banned from entering by the court on a day I was expected but did not arrive. Is there any time limitations to his sentence and Prayer For Judgement and do I have any victim rights to assist in my safety efforts? I appreciate your advise.
    Thank you,
    Deborah Smith

  39. Much of what I have to ask has somewhat been discussed in previous post. However, I will ask my questions because i feel its unique. Myself and a former girlfriend were both charged with assault even though no assault ever occurred. We both received PJC’s in court that day. I have no other criminal history, However, 15 years later when I go to get a gun permit I get denied because of the PJC. I do remember pleading not guilty I find my local guilford county sherifs office treats it as a guilty plea. Am I wrong is the PJC being applied wrong or interpreted wrong and in such case could this be stricken from my record?

  40. Can a pjc for resisting keep you from getting a pistol permit even if it happened when you were a minor?

  41. I was found guilt on assault on female charge. The judge granted me pjc, no sentence was entered. I paid court cost only. Will this be considered as conviction?

  42. Mr. Markham,

    In the Canellas case to which you referred the Court of Appeals did not address NCGS 15A-1340.11(7)(a), the statute which says a District Court conviction does not count as a prior conviction for sentencing points until the time for appeal has passed. The Court of Appeals proceeded as if they were unaware of that statute. If that statute is still law then logically the State cannot count the conviction for sentencing purposes until the State gets the judge to enter judgment (by “praying judgment”) and waits for 10 days to pass without an appeal.

    Mr. Canellas’ release date from prison is listed online today as 1-26-17. If his PJC case were not counted against him, he would have been a level 4, class C rather than a level 5, class C. His release date would be a year and a half or so earlier than it is. What if he himself prays judgment on that PJC’d misdemeanor, the Court enters judgment, then Mr. Canellas appeals that judgment? Then he could file an MAR showing that his pending misdemeanor for which he has yet to be given a jury trial was erroneously used against him to increase his sentence in the habitual felon case. Maybe he could then get the Court to modify his sentence to a Level 4, class C, saving him a year and a half or so behind bars. Even if he were convicted of the appealed misdemeanor and got 5 months imprisonment he’d still come out ahead by a year or so.

    Is there any legal reason for Canellas not to pursue that course of action?

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