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What Is A “Prayer for Judgment Continued” And Can I Use One for A DWI Case?

Judges gavel symbolizing prayer for judgment

Have you been arrested for DWI in North Carolina? Are you wondering what type of DWI defenses you can use to lessen the penalty you receive if you are found guilty of DWI? If so, we can help you. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients who have been charged with driving while impaired. We utilize several DWI defenses depending on the circumstances and facts of your case. Specifically, many people contact us to ask if they can request a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) for a DWI.

Using a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) for a Motor Vehicle Charge

A Prayer for Judgment Continued is a type of resolution to a case that is particular to North Carolina.  Other states may have similar legal concepts, but the details vary between jurisdictions.  When the court grants a prayer for judgment continued it means that the court has postponed the entry of the final judgment of conviction and the sentence.  Generally, this postponement is for an indefinite period of time, meaning that the final judgment is never entered in the case and no sentence is ever imposed (beyond the payment of court costs).  The idea is that the case can then be viewed as not a conviction.

In the context of a motor vehicle case, a PJC can be very useful because the DMV will not treat the case as a conviction of a moving violation.  This can have the effect of eliminating license and insurance points or license suspensions, although there are some limitations on how often a motorist can use a prayer for judgment and when it will actually work.  For example, commercial license holders cannot use a PJC.  Also, holders of licenses from states other than North Carolina may not always experience the benefit of a PJC as it will depend on how their home state treats the case.

Prayer For Judgment in NC

Whether or not a prayer for judgment can or will be granted in a given case depends on a couple of factors in a motor vehicle case.  First, the law places some limitations on what types of charges are eligible for a PJC.  Secondly, whether or not to actually grant a prayer for judgment continued is always in the sole discretion of the judge even if technically it is allowed under the law.  Most judges have personal policies as to when they will grant such a request and for what types of cases.

For a defendant, it is often wise to consider whether it is worthwhile to use a PJC in their case.  As previously noted, there are limits on how often a PJC can be used.  For example, car insurance companies in North Carolina are only required to honor one prayer for judgment per household every three years.  So if you share your policy with somebody else you will need to consider their driving record as well as the chances that you or they may need to use a PJC again in the future.  Often times there are other ways to handle a case and still avoid license and insurance points.  Also be aware that the DMV itself will only allow a maximum of two prayers for judgment within a five year period.

Using a Prayer for Judgment Continued for a Criminal Case

It is possible to request a PJC if you are charged with almost any other sort of crime also, as a prayer for judgment is not exclusive to motor vehicle cases.  However, in the context of other criminal cases, a prayer for judgment is virtually useless.  Even if the court grants a PJC, the case will still show up on a background check.  Worse, it will appear to be a conviction, since the court records will indicate that the defendant pleaded guilty, was found guilty, but “judgment was continued.”  To somebody examining a background check, this is going to appear to be a criminal conviction regardless of the technical details.  Finally, for most court-related purposes a PJC in a criminal case is in fact treated as a conviction (for example when counting prior record points for sentencing a new conviction).

Can I Request a Prayer for Judgment Continued for a DWI

Getting back to the original question, you cannot receive a prayer for judgment for a DWI charge.  North Carolina law specifically forbids the court from granting this request for a handful of types of offenses, and Driving While Impaired is at the top of this list.  Other exceptions include passing a stopped school bus or speeding more than 25 miles per hour over the posted limit.

While you may not use a PJC in a DWI case, there are several other DWI defenses that our attorneys can explore to lessen the severity of your DWI sentence. It is imperative that you contact our office as soon as possible so that our attorneys can begin to work on your DWI defense.

Contact an Experienced Jacksonville DWI Attorney

“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”

The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, LLP is a full-service Jacksonville Criminal and Civil law firm that is committed to providing results-driven legal representation to businesses and individuals seeking an alternative to large-firm representation. We focus on getting you the results you want while offering you a cost-effective solution to your legal needs. We understand that we work for our clients; therefore; our attorneys communicate regularly with each client to ensure that the client knows what is going on with the case.

When you have legal problems, you need an experienced legal professional in your corner. No matter the case, you should have an attorney working for you who knows the law and who has the experience to get results. We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.