Another Look at PJCs

Prayer for judgment continued or a “PJC” is a common disposition in criminal cases, most frequently for traffic law violations or low-level crimes, where entry of final judgment is delayed indefinitely. We have previously covered when conditions on a PJC convert it to a final judgment, limits on the use of PJCs, sex offender registration and PJCs, whether a PJC can be expunged, collateral consequences of PJCs, and other contexts where questions about PJCs arise. A case from the Court of Appeals last year has generated renewed interest in dispositional PJCs. Dispositional or “true” PJCs typically serve as the final resolution of a case. This is in contrast with PJCs used to continue judgment for a set period of time so the defendant can satisfy some condition or for the court to otherwise remain involved in the case. Today’s post will examine that decision, offer thoughts on how defenders can mitigate the potential risk of a dispositional PJC, and discuss how an unwanted PJC might be avoided altogether.

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A Conditional Discharge Is Not a Conviction for Purposes of the Federal Felon-in-Possession Law

In United States v. Smith, 939 F.3d 612 (4th Cir. 2019), the Fourth Circuit held that a defendant who received a conditional discharge for a prior felony was not “convicted” of that crime within the meaning of the federal felon-in-possession statute. He was therefore not a felon under that law, and thus not barred from possessing a firearm under it. The appellate court reversed his conviction. The case gives us an opportunity to review what we know (and don’t know) about the subsequent effect of conditional discharges and PJCs.

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PJCs for Serious Felonies

Sometimes prayer for judgment is continued on a serious (Class B1–E) felony conviction to give a defendant time to demonstrate good behavior before sentencing. What happens if that PJC extends beyond the time limitations set out in G.S. 15A-1331.2? Does the court lose jurisdiction to enter judgment in the case and sentence the defendant?

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Walters Affirmed: No Sex Offender Registration for a PJC

With three words—PER CURIAM. AFFIRMED.—the Supreme Court of North Carolina last week added a new wrinkle to two already perplexing areas of the law: sex offender registration and PJCs. In Walters v. Cooper, the high court affirmed the court of appeals’ conclusion that a conviction for which a person receives a prayer for judgment continued … Read more

Can You Expunge a PJC?

I am sometimes asked if a conviction for which prayer for judgment has been continued (a PJC) can be expunged. It’s a sensible question, given—as I’ll discuss in a moment—that a PJC is treated like a conviction for most purposes in North Carolina. A person has virtually the same incentive to seek expungement of a … Read more