I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the following conversation, or one very similar.
Potential Client: “I was charged with speeding 70 in a 55 driving through Duplin County. Can your firm help me with this?”
Me: “Sure, I can have this reduced to an Improper Equipment, thus preventing license and insurance points”
Potential Client: “Well, Attorney X said he can get me a PJC for $100 cheaper!”
The PJC is a creature unique to North Carolina, and has risen to mythical “cure all” status among lay people who have received a speeding ticket in Duplin County or Sampson County. I know fellow lawyers who have used PJC in the name of their boat, beach house, and on vanity plates for their vehicle. Needless to say, the PJC is a valuable tool in our bag of tricks. However, there are other, even sometimes better, options.
What is a PJC?
PJC is short for Prayer for Judgment Continued. It works like this. A person enters a plea of guilty to a speeding charge and upon requesting a PJC, the court “continues judgment” in the matter. A judgment is a final order in a legal matter. By continuing judgment, the court is saying that a final judgment will not be entered on the particular matter. The immediate effect of this is you won’t receive insurance or license points on your speeding case if no judgment is entered. The problem is, when it comes to traffic offenses, the court is really the least of your worries. NCDMV is generally the end all, be all when it comes to these situations. So, how does DMV handle your PJC? It depends.
If you have a spotless record, DMV will not assess insurance or license points if the court continues judgment in your case (i.e. enters a PJC). In this situation its helpful to think of the PJC as a 3 year probation period. So long as you are not convicted of a moving violation during this 3 year period DMV will not assess points. However, conviction of a moving violation (with a few exceptions) during this period will “undo” the PJC and you will generally be assessed insurance points for the original charge that was PJCd and for the new moving violation.
How Often Can I Use a PJC?
When considering a PJC, and all traffic issues for that matter, it is important to recognize there are two “points” systems that effect drivers. The first is points assessed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). North Carolina law assigns certain point values to various traffic offenses. If a person exceeds a point total over a certain period of time, DMV will revoke that person’s license. The second points system is insurance points. Again, North Carolina law provides a list of offenses and assigns certain insurance points for commission of those offenses. In some situations DMV points and insurance points are the same, but not always. (Points For Traffic Offenses in North Carolina) Motor vehicle insurance rates are based in part on the number of insurance points on a policy. For each moving violation, a person is assessed points from two separate sources. So, the answer to the question, “How often can I use a pjc”, is, there are two answers. As far as DMV is concerned, each licensee is entitled to two PJCs in a five year period. For insurance purposes, each POLICY is entitled to one PJC in a three year period. It is important to recognize here that for insurance purposes, an entire policy is reviewed. This is especially noteworthy for families with young drivers.
How Will The PJC Affect My Out Of State License?
I don’t know. As I stated earlier, the PJC is unique to North Carolina. Most likely North Carolina will report to your home state the fact that you received a PJC on a traffic offense. To know for sure what affect the PJC will have, a person would need to contact the DMV of his home state as well as his insurance provider.
Is A PJC The Best Option For My Situation?
Its important to recognize the PJC for what it is, just one of a few tools at the lawyers disposal. If I had to rank “Best Possible Outcome” for a speeding charge, it would look like this.
1. Dismissal: I cant remember the last speeding charge I got dismissed. With the media of today in constant search of a story to over dramatize, District Attorneys simply dont dismiss speeding tickets.
2. Improper Equipment (IE): The IE is a tool that can be utilized in some jurisdictions. With court dockets growing to unmanagable sizes, District Attorneys have looked for a “win-win” manner of quickly disposing of cases. The IE is that solution. It works like this. The DA, upon receipt of the proper paperwork from your attorney, will reduce the speeding charge to an equipment violation. Equipment violations are non moving violations so they don’t carry insurance or DMV points. In exchange you agree to pay a fine and the cost of court. So, the state gets its money and moves the case quickly through the system, and you get your case resolved without incurring points. Each District Attorney sets his/her own parameters for what cases qualify for a reduction to IE. Some DAs dont allow the IE. There is no statutory limitation on the number of IEs a person can use, but most DAs place their own limitations on how often it can be utilized.
3. PJC (see explanation above).
4. Speed Reduction: In some cases, for people not prone to receive speeding tickets, simply reducing the speed and paying the fine will prevent points. I rarely resolve cases in this manner because it can result in trouble down the road.
So, you can see the PJC has its place.
I borrowed this narative from a colleague of mine, Mario White, and it makes a valid point. On one side of the street there is a barber shop with a sign advertising $5 haircuts. On the other side of the street is a barber shop with a sign advertising $20 haircuts. And below that sign is the phrase “I specialize in fixing $5 haircuts”.
Resolving speeding cases is more of an art than a science. Each case is different and each driving record is unique. An attorney needs to have a good understanding of the impact of certain convictions and should be able to read a driving record and assess what is best for each particular case. These skills are not taught in lawschool as its really only possible to “master” them through years of practice. This is not stated to promote us and what we do, but rather to highlight the complexity of dealing with these issues so that you, the client, can understand the importance of hiring an experienced attorney so as not to dig yourself into a hole.
Cutting hair is not complicated, but go to an inexperienced barber and you’ll likely spend a great deal more undoing his mess. The same is true with your traffic attorney. Don’t just hire the guy/gal who can get “the cheapest PJC”. As this article shows, there are many other options.
Feel free to contact Ludlum Law Firm to discuss your Clinton, Kenansville, Warsaw or other Duplin County or Sampson County speeding ticket.