I received a traffic ticket. Should I ask the Judge for a PJC?

March 27th, 2015

What is a PJC?

A PJC stands for Prayer for Judgment Continued. It is a legal middle ground between a conviction and an acquittal. If you are convicted of an offense, either by plea or after trial, you can ask the Judge for a PJC. If granted, it means that the Judge refrains from entering a judgment of guilt. People commonly ask the Judge for a PJC as a way to resolve their traffic ticket without impacting their car insurance rates and/or driver license. Judges also sometimes grant PJCs to people charged with lower level misdemeanors, such as shoplifting or marijuana possession.

What are the consequences?

In some situations, a PJC counts as a regular conviction, while in other cases, it does not. For example, with traffic tickets, the first PJC per household (not per driver) in any given three year period does not count as a conviction for purposes of car insurance rates. So, if nobody else in your household has received a PJC in the last three years, then you can get one, and it won’t cause your car insurance rate to increase. But, if someone living with you has received one in the last three years, and you receive one, then both of those PJCs will now count as convictions (until three years after the date of the first one, at which point it “drops off”).

The other reason to ask for a PJC is to prevent adverse consequences to your driver license. The first two PJCs per individual in any given five year period do not count as convictions for purposes of driver license points and suspensions. But, if any person has three PJCs in any given five year period, then all three count as convictions.

However, if you have an out of state driver license, your home state may treat all PJCs as convictions. In this situation, you should consult with an attorney in your home state.

Should I ask for one?

A PJC should be used as a last resort if there is no alternative way to resolve the case that won’t impact your driver license and insurance rates. If you have the choice between a non-moving violation and a PJC, you should take the non-moving violation, and “save” the PJC for later. If, however, you have already gotten several tickets in the last few years, and there is no other way to avoid points, then you should request a PJC.

Will the Judge Grant My Request for a PJC?

It depends – whether or not to grant it is within the discretion of the Judge. Factors that increase your chance of receiving a PJC are (a) a good driving record, (b) a charge that isn’t too serious, and/or (c) you have done something like community service to mitigate the impact of the offense.

However, under the law, you cannot receive a PJC if (a) you’re charged with driving while impaired, (b) you have a commercial driver license (CDL), (c) you’re driving a commercial motor vehicle, or (d) you are accused of speeding more than 25 miles per hour above the limit.

Can the police search my car if they smell marijuana?

March 27th, 2015

The short answer is yes. In order to search your car, the police usually need probable cause, and the courts have ruled that the smell of marijuana coming from a car constitutes probable cause to search the car. See United States v. Humphries, 372 F.3d 653 (4th Cir. 2004), available here.

However, the smell of marijuana by itself may not be enough cause for the police to arrest everyone in the car for marijuana possession. To arrest someone for marijuana possession, there generally must be other factors present indicating which specific person/people possess the marijuana. For example, it is more likely that the Court will find that there was probable cause to arrest you if (a) you own the car, (b) you are driving, (c) the marijuana was found closest to you, and/or (d) you claim ownership of the marijuana. It is less likely that there will be probable cause if you aren’t driving, if you don’t own the car, and/or the marijuana found is closer to another person than to you.