Every day I’m in court, I see people struggling with not knowing what to do, where to go, or what to say. Even the attorneys. As a new attorney, I was fortunate enough to have a friend to show me around and give me the do’s/don’ts. Here’s a quick (ha!) guide to some of the basics.
I’m going to divide this post into a few sections: (1) What everyone should do, (2) What to do if you’re charged, (3) What to do if you’re an attorney. This article will focus on misdemeanor, traffic, and infraction issues. If you’re charged with a felony, you’re likely in custody or will be contacted by law enforcement (in which case you won’t need this article!).
What everyone should do
If you know that you need to attend district court in Wake County, there’s a few things you should know and do beforehand and on the day of the court appearance.
- Know what they tell you to expect: Go to http://www.nccourts.org/ and read the information under the section “Going to Court” (right in the middle of the page (or at http://www.nccourts.org/Citizens/GoToCourt/Default.asp)
- Know when/where to go: Still on http://www.nccourts.org/, go to “Criminal Court Dates” on the right-hand sidebar. Enter the defendant’s (person being charged) last name and select Wake County from the drop down menu. Click “Submit Query.” When the list comes up, find the right name and note the court date, the courtroom, the case number, and the session. You should check this site every week or so until the court date, then check again the day before and the night before the court date (the dates, locations, and sessions have been known to change). You can also visit the Clerk of Court‘s office.
Here’s a key to what you’ll find:
- Court rooms start with two zeros (example “002c”). The first number is the floor of the court room your case has been assigned to. The letter is which court room on the floor your case is assigned to. So, if it says 002c, you’ll be on the 2nd floor, court room C. They’re often referred to without the two zeros (example, you’ll here it referred to as “courtroom 2c”).
- WCCH means Wake County Court House
- AM/PM means which “session” of court your case is assigned to. The court has two sessions one starting at 9a and one starting at 2p.
- Courtroom 001 or 001a is special. This is so-called “disposition court.” In Disposition Court, you may show up anytime between 9a and 3p and have your case heard by the judge presiding over the courtroom. You may also speak with the prosecutor to try and resolve your case. Disposition Court is reserved for minor infractions and items that can be “disposed of” quickly with little discussion. You may find that you start out in Disposition Court and have your case moved to a different court on a different day/date if there’s something more than a basic charge.
Some other things to know about the Wake County Court House
- It’s downtown. That may seem obvious, but there it is. It can be hard to get to and parking is not always easy. If this is your first time, plan to get to the courthouse AT LEAST 1/2 ahead. You’ll need the time to find parking and walk to the courthouse.
- There’s a metal detector at each door. Anything confiscated at the metal detector will not be returned. Leave that pocketknife your son gave you at home.
- The elevators are antiquated and slow. Expect to be waiting a bit for the elevator. If you’re just going to the 2nd floor, or maybe even the 4th floor, take the stairs – it’ll be faster.
- The Clerk of Court (Criminal Division) is on the 1st floor. If you really don’t know what to do, go there first and plan some extra time (there’s often a wait and they don’t open until 8.30a).
What to do if you’re charged
If you’re the one charged (i.e. received the ticket/citation or the one called to the court), well, bummer. But beyond that here’s what you need to know/do on your court date:
- Plan the time: If you’re supposed to be in court, plan to spend the better part of the day there (even if it says 9a or 2p – they all say that). If your case is in the afternoon, you may not get out until 6 or 6.30p. If you’re supposed to be there for the morning, plan on being there from 8.45a until 12.30 or 1p. If you get done early, great – it’s a bonus, but there are few things that the court likes less than a defendant that leaves while their case is pending.
- Know where you’re supposed to go: you can check the website and the Clerk’s office. Additionally, there’s a “calendar” sheet outside each court room that lists the cases that will be heard in that court. Check all of them until you find your name – that’s your court room.
- Dress well: You don’t have to be in your “Sunday best,” but most judges take the court very seriously and expect you to show the court respect. For men, that means shirt tucked in (don’t laugh, I’ve heard of a judge giving someone 20 days in jail for not tucking their shirt in – now, that guy had a n attitude about it, but still…). If you can swing it guys, also try to wear long pants, socks, shoes-that-aren’t-flip-flops, and a collared shirt. No hats in court. For ladies, skirts or pants (even shorts generally) are fine. If you can ladies, go with something conservative – try to avoid halter, tube, or other revealing tops, flip-flops, and miniskirts. For men and women: NO shirts with rude or offensive sayings (I once heard of a defendant called before the judge, his t-shirt said “F%^& the Police,” the judge was not amused).
- Act well: Use your “yes sir,” and “yes ma’am.” If you have to talk during court, quietly go out into the hall to have your conversation. TURN YOUR CELLPHONE OFF (or at least to silent). I’ve seen cellphones confiscated during court and people admonished by the judge (probably didn’t help their sentence much either) for their phones going off in court.
- Be prompt: (in courtrooms other than 001) If your court session is at 9a, be there by 8.45a. If your court session is at 2p, be there at 1.45p. One of the first things that will happen in court is that the prosecutor will “Call the Calendar.” They will call the name of each defendant for that session. If you’re not there when your name is called, there’s a chance you will be marked absent (referred to as a “Failure to Appear“), which can lead to a warrant for your arrest. When the prosecutor Calls the Calendar, they’ll give you instructions on how to answer. If you have an attorney, DO NOT expect them to be there right at Calendar Call (it works a little different for attorneys).
- Be patient: Your case is probably the most important thing in your life, unfortunately the court has 50+ other cases to deal with that session, so you’re one of many. Also, the judge (believe it or not) and the prosecutors (believe it!) are underpaid and overworked (aren’t we all), but you *really* don’t want to make these folks mad. So, be patient, they will get to everyone, it just may take a while.
- Do not worry about the commotion: Typically, after the calendar call, there will be a bunch of attorneys talking to the prosecutor(s), there will be people being called up to the judge or to the prosecutor, the prosecutor may be talking to law enforcement officers, etc. Believe it or not, there’s a plan and a system. They’ll get to everyone (eventually). Some judges like to deal with pro se (meaning, defending yourself – no attorney) cases first, some like to deal with the attorneys first.
- When you’re called up to the prosecutor: They’re going to ask you “what do you want to do with your case today?” Do not say “I want to get this dismissed.” Instead, *briefly* explain the situation (4 sentences or less) and ask if they are willing to reduce the charge. Here’s the bad news: they almost never dismiss the charge outright. But, if you’ve fixed the issue (like lack of auto insurance), they’ll probably be willing to work with you. They may offer you something less than what you were charged with. However, they *can not* tell you if you should take the offer or what you should do. Prosecutors are strictly prohibited from offering legal advice to defendants – in some cases it can get them fired or cause them to lose their law license.
- When you’re called up to the judge: Come around the benches and stand in front of the judge. Do not talk over or interrupt the judge or the prosecutor. If you don’t understand something, ask. Be sure that you say “I don’t understand” or “can you explain.” DO NOT argue with the judge (“Well, I was told that…” or “You don’t understand that…” never go over well). The judge may ask you a few questions and will have you speak to the clerk sitting next to the judge. The clerk will give you some documentation (typically including a cost sheet, if you have to pay court costs or a “waiver” if you’re not asking the court to appoint an attorney).
- After you get your case decided: Go to the cashier on the 1st floor and pay your fine, court costs, etc. You must pay this by 5p the day of court. You can ask the judge for additional time to pay, but this will also require a $25 administrative fee to be added to your costs. The cashier does not accept checks or credit cards. Your only options are cash or money order (there’s an ATM in the courthouse lobby).
What to do if you’re the attorney
First, if you’re defendant and you’re still reading this, stop this section isn’t for you. The rules and procedures that apply to lawyers are different than for the general public – even those who are defending themselves.
- First, relative to many of the more rural court houses (and similar to counties like Mecklenburg), the courthouse is enormous. The Criminal Clerk of Court is on the 1st floor, the Civil Clerk of Court is on the 11th floor, unless you need Probate/Estates, which is on the 12th floor. The building itself is over capacity. The elevators are slow and the stairs get crowded. The a/c is not great and there is little or no cellphone reception in the misdemeanor court rooms. Parking is bad, plan on walking at least a couple of blocks to get to the court house. Also, unlike some county courthouses, *everyone* has to go through the metal detectors – even the attorneys.
- The misdemeanor court rooms are on the 1st (for Disposition Court, see above), 2nd (most of the court rooms and volume), and 5th (for DUI and special cases) floors. Find your clients court room like it says above. If your client is scheduled to be in two different court rooms on the same day or the same session, you need to “Gold Sheet” the cases together (It’s called a “Gold Sheet” because the paper *used to be* gold colored). You can get a Gold Sheet from any of the clerks in any of the court rooms, you have to fill it out starting with the “to” court room. Fill out the form and have the “receiving” judge and prosecutor sign the sheet, then go back to the “from” court room and have the “sending” judge and prosecutor sign the sheet, then hand it to the clerk and she’ll give you the file to take to the “to” court room.
- The files (if you’re not familiar with the colloquial) are referred to as shucks (as in, “have you pulled the shuck?” not as in “look at all these cases, aww shucks.”). The shuck is the official file of the courthouse and they take its movement out of the court room very seriously (due to some previous history in this particular courthouse).
- Before the calendar call (or anytime during the session), you can enter the court room, pass the gallery and proceed through the gate. Have a seat at the bench behind the tables (use this opportunity to get “the lay of the land” re: judge, prosecutor, other defense attorneys, etc.)
- At calendar call, the local protocol is “hold that open, please” or “hold that open for [insert your last name here], please”
- After the calendar call, the prosecutor or the clerk will arrange the shucks on the defense table. After they’ve finished, you can approach the table and pick out your shuck. After you have a chance to review the shuck, you’ll notice that lawyers start lining up to talk to the prosecutor-in-charge (there are generally two in district court, one for triage and talking to defendants; and one for agreeing to pleas and trials). Get in line. It could be a while before they get to you. Some prosecutors run a very smooth court keeping the judge fed shucks and moving the cases along. Some don’t. You’ll also note that the particular judge has a big impact on this (obviously), see also, the “be patient” above.
- Generally, you can approach the clerk at any time that they aren’t overwhelmed with what the judge is handing them and the defendant in front of them.
- Oh and get ready, in 2013 the courthouse is going to more than do
uble in size! Criminal court will be in the new building across Salisbury St, and civil court will take up the entire current courthouse.
Hope all that helps. Good luck!
- When DWI Conviction Dates Go Back in Time (blogs.wsj.com)
- Former Wake judge pleads guilty on altered DWI cases (newsobserver.com)
Ok, well, it’s that time again… time to recap the week. But, I took an unexpected week off last week so I need to catch up. Here’s the best from the last TWO weeks!
As folks look to form businesses, you have to ask yourself questions about what kind of structure makes sense for your business. I love the title of this article, it’s worth a read (by the way, the answer is “No.”) Will a Corporation or Limited Liability Company Protect You from Yourself? http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/will-a-corporation-or-limited-liability-55959/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw
We always talk about intellectual property and social media here. It’s a growing area and no one really knows how some things are going to shake out. AND it’s growing faster than things CAN shake out in some cases. Here’s a new one re: copyright. What’s the impact of Pinterest on your copyrights? Let It Slide: Copyright Infringement On Pinterest http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/let-it-slide-copyright-infringement-on-04280/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw
Crowdfunding is another issue where things are taking off much faster than the legal framework can adapt. Here’s a good article on some points to consider before you jump in. How To Make Sure Your Crowdfunding Dreams Don’t Turn Into An Investor Relations Nightmare http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/05/how-to-make-sure-your-crowdfunding-dreams-dont-turn-into-an-investor-relations-nightmare/
Here’s another Nina Kaufman item. Great little video about Terms & Conditions on your website. Think you only need to worry about that if you sell online? You’re wrong. Tune in. 3 Reasons Why Your Website Should Include Terms and Conditions http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/223931
While we’re touting Nina, here’s another of her videos on an oft-overlooked subject. Who is your partner? Do you know who you’re getting into business with? You better! Sometimes it’s easier to get divorced from a spouse than to disengage from a business partner. How to Know If a Business Partner is Right for You. http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/224127 also, be sure to follow Nina Kaufman at @ninakaufman on twitter.
This article sounds like it’s directed at big business, but the principles apply to every innovator (as a small business owner, that’s you!) and it’s worth a read. The Planning Fallacy and the Innovator’s Dilemma http://blogs.hbr.org/anthony/2012/08/the_planning_fallacy_and_the_i.html?awid=7946997658421232138-3271
In Oklahoma, they’ve formed a brewing cooperative. It’s a different legal structure that has advantages and disadvantages of its own. Looks like it’s working out for them right now. Oklahoma City brewing cooperative aims to grow beer culture. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-brewing-cooperative-aims-to-grow-beer-culture/article/3697637#ixzz22glEIQ8g
One of my favorite subjects: North Carolina Beer! Here’s a guide for you out-of-towners. No place like foam: Your guide to cool microbreweries in North Carolina http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/vs-travel-north-carolina-microbreweries-20120730,0,1960437.story
Still on NC… Boulevard Brewing jumps on the bandwagon with distribution. Many breweries are leap-frogging over other surrounding states to get into the NC market. Boulevard Brewing Company Entering Georgia and North Carolina in 2012 http://www.brewbound.com/news/boulevard-brewing-company-entering-georgia-and-north-carolina-in-2012
More on NC! Oskar Blues to start production in Brevard in December http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20120805/ARTICLES/120809916
On the other end of the spectrum, how would you like to be labeled with “only” and “first” when it’s something the rest of the country doesn’t see as a big deal? Beer from here: Alabama’s only brewpub opens at Heroes in Weaver http://www.annistonstar.com/view/full_story/19718633/article-Beer-from-here–Alabama%E2%80%99s-f%E2%80%8Airst-brewpub-opens-at-Heroes-in-Weaver?instance=home_lifestyle (by the way, Good for them!)
Here’s a question I come back to again and again: If you’re a brewer/brewery, how do you balance between what you like to brew/drink and what sells the best? Here’s one take from Magic Hat (the article is mostly about Angel City Brewing, but scroll down). Under wing of new owners, Angel City Brewing begins again http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-angel-city-20120803,0,3552857.story
Nice little article out of Columbus OH on how beer gardens are changing the “bar” experience. Even at public venues.Gemütlichkeit! Beer gardens fare well http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/08/05/beer-gardens-fare-well.html
Good discussion of how the Beer Business reflects (or is reflected by?) the global economy. The State Of The Beer Industry Perfectly Reflects The Global Economy http://www.businessinsider.com/beer-a-reflection-of-the-world-economy-2012-7
Unless you’ve been living under a beer-deprived rock for the last few years, you know that collaboration projects are on the rise. They’re a great way to build the beer culture, share ideas, and create new and exciting beers. What makes a good collaboration (on a business/legal level)? Best Practices for Successful Collaboration http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/best-practices-for-successful-collaborat-97122/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw
This may be the year for mega-deals in the beer business. By August, the total amount changing hands is over $35 billion (that’s with a “B”). In deals, brewers hop to it. http://www.jg.net/article/20120805/BIZ/308059961/1031/BIZ
Despite the consolidation in some markets/segments, in the US, we’ve hit a 125 year high in total number of breweries. Woot! BREWERS ASSOCIATION REPORTS 2012 MID-YEAR GROWTH FOR U.S. CRAFT BREWERS http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/media/press-releases/show?title=brewers-association-reports-2012-mid-year-growth-for-u-s-craft-brewers
Just for fun
Being a Trekkie (and I still use Trekkie, not the new-fangled “Trekker,” I’m old-school like that), I though this was an interesting infographic. The Science of Star Trek http://cheezburger.com/6493989888 or http://i.imgur.com/PAfaT.jpg
- What will you drink on International Beer Day? (mnn.com)
- SaveOnBrew Helps Small Beer Retailers and Brewers Capitalize on Growing Craft Beer Trend (prweb.com)
- Fears brew that Israel’s bubbling beer culture could be flattened by tax hike (timesofisrael.com)
- ‘Hyper growth’ in Michigan beer industry could exhaust shelf space, says Founders president (mlive.com)
- Wind Down Your Summer with Three August Beer Festivals (jaunted.com)
- Boulevard will start serving up its latest beer this month (bizjournals.com)
- TTB Rejects “Prostator Smoked Doppelbock” Label (lyke2drink.blogspot.com)
- How To Take Your Home Brewing Operation To The Next Level (lifehacker.com.au)
- Canning Factories On Wheels Rev Up The Beer ‘Canvolution’ (wnyc.org)
- Reboot Charlotte: Breweries Tap Into NoDa’s Artistry (foxcharlotte.com)
Wait, no. I mean intentionally a non-profit organization? I’m sure there are plenty of brewer/owners out there that would readily admit that their business is currently a “non-profit.” I mean, in the legal, tax-status sense.
And the answer is: maybe.
Classic lawyer-speak, “maybe.” What I really mean is that maybe you could, but I don’t think you would want to. But here’s what goes into the analysis:
In order to be a non-profit organization, you have a “charitable purpose.” You can fill out your state paperwork to incorporate as a non-profit corporation (for example, in NC) and be an “entity.” But then, to get the tax benefits, you need to apply for tax exempt status at the IRS. NC, like many states, simply follows the Federal decision on whether your company is tax exempt or not. And, here’s the kicker, a main goal of your company cannot be “to make money.”
If I can’t make money, why would I start a company? – I hear you ask. Well, the answer to that is, generally, you wouldn’t.
But, there are those that want to give back to the community, help out the less advantaged, etc, without assuming all the personal liability or to go after serious fundraising. I work with several non-profits that focus on everything from providing job training to at-risk youth to providing a home for abandoned children. That’s what the non-profit business structure is made for and where it works best.
Well, can’t I make a little money? – Aha! Sure enough, there’s an entity called an L3C or Low-profit Limited Liability Company.
Many states allow L3Cs, such as NC, but many states do not, so you need to be sure of what your state does and doesn’t allow. L3Cs, generally, are sort of a hybrid between non-profits and for-profits. For an L3C, the state expects you to (1) have a business that makes money and (2) have a “charitable purpose” that uses the money that the business makes. A good example might be a church or community thrift store. No one opens a church thrift store thinking they’ll retire to the bahamas in a few years. It’s meant to be low-profit. An L3C, just like a non-profit, can pay employees and raise funds. What it can’t do is “intend” to make money for the sake of making money or for the sake of the owner(s).
But what about breweries?
So, how does all that relate to a brewery? Well, as a start-up, a brewery (at least typically) has a long, tough slog to get to being profitable. Could a brewery be a non-profit during that time to ease the expenses (especially the taxes). Answer: No.
The State, and especially the IRS, are going to say that you don’t have a charitable purpose as the goal of the business – so you won’t get your tax-exempt status. Even if you did get your tax-exempt status, you’d lose it eventually as you paid the owners more and more over time, then the IRS might come after your for tax fraud (remember, it brought down Capone!).
Could a brewery be an L3C? Well, yes, actually.
Let’s take the Trappist Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvlateren as an example (assuming that Westvleteren was in North Carolina – aside: wouldn’t that be AWESOME?!?). The monks at the Abbey have often been asked if they’re going to increase production. They’ve replied (I’m paraphrasing here) “We brew beer so we can afford to run the Abbey and be monks, not the other way around.” This attitude and set-up would be a perfect model for an L3C: a business tightly linked to a charitable purpose where there is little or no excess profit.
But, Westvleteren is a special situation. After all there are only 7 Trappist breweries in the world. It would take a very special set of circumstances for a brewery to want to be an L3C organization and for an L3C to fit the business plan/model.
So, I’ll end this the way I started, I think a brewery could be a non-profit or an L3C, but I’m not sure that a brewery would want to.
- TurboTax – Are 501C3 Stock Investment Profits Tax-Exempt? (turbotax.intuit.com)
- Roald Smeets – Westvleteren Brewery (roaldsmeetsbeerinbelgium.wordpress.com)
- IRS Announces that 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organizations which Lost their Tax Exempt Status Are Now Eligible to Apply for Reinstatement (prweb.com)
- Heightened Scrutiny on Non-profits by IRS (getirshelp.com)
- IRS workshops help nonprofits retain tax-exempt status (jsonline.com)
- An Open Invitation for Heart-Centered Entrepreneurs:July 9th Launch of Special Q&A Sessions to answer questions on Non-Profit,501©(3),Tax Exempt and Funding processes (prweb.com)
- Ann Arbor-area brewer helps craft new state rules for small breweries (annarbor.com)
Ok. So I said I’d talk about starting a business in NC, but I’m going to insert this brief post in between. In short, I’m excited because of the recent announcements involving one of my favorite subjects: North Carolina Beer!
You may have seen the recent story in the News & Observer talking about the announcement by New Belgium Brewing Company that they’ll be building a new East Coast brewery in Asheville, NC. This follows on the heels of a similar announcement from Sierra Nevada. Asheville, already a great beer town, is quickly becoming a beer destination!
The North Carolina beer industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Last I heard, there were AT LEAST 10 new breweries “in the works” in NC (but don’t quote me on that statistic as I really can’t verify it at this time). But, thanks to our friends over at Real Beer, we’ve got a some really neat statistics about the beer industry in general. For example, this post,
highlighting data published by the Brewers Association, indicates that – even in this time of recession – the craft beer industry experienced an overall increase in sales by 13%. That’s respectable growth in the best of times!
Side note: I also stumbled across this post looking at the number of dry counties in the US. Interesting! Looks like some states still have some progress to make. But, I digress…
Another great resource for information about NC beer is the North Carolina Brewers Guild. The North Carolina Brewers Guild does a great job of advocating for brewers and breweries.
I’m continuing to try and increase my practice focus on the brewing and distilling industries and I’m just very proud to be involved in the beer industry in NC, even if it is tangentially. Thanks for dealing with my little diversion here.s in the state and is a great place to look for the latest news in NC beer.
Support your local brewery and tune in next time for more actual, legal… stuff. In the meantime, have a great weekend and Happy Easter!
- Local breweries opening in Charlotte (charlotte.news14.com)
- Maybe Asheville IS Beer City USA — S/N to open brewery there (oregonlive.com)
- Sierra Nevada Decides on East Coast Brewery Location (sprbrewcrew.wordpress.com)
So, in North Carolina, whether you know it or not, we have TWO different sets of point systems.
The first system everyone is familiar with: Driver’ License points. This ins the one where speeding tickets counts as so many points depending on your speed, where it was, etc. Then, if you get too many points in a certain amount of time, you lose your license.
For example, in NC, conviction of speeding over 55 in a 55 mph zone is 3 DL points. Do that 4 times in 3 years, that’s 12 points, and the DMV can revoke your license (max of 12 points allowed per 3 year period). OK, I get it. Each violation has a point value add up your points if it’s >12 in 3 years, you’ve got an issue. That’s pretty simple.
Oh, BTW – if you’re caught speeding over 55 in 55 mph zone 3 times within 1 year, that’s a suspension too, even though it’s less than 12 points. See! This is why you may want a lawyer to help you even it’s just a traffic ticket.
But then things get more complex. In NC there is such a thing as the North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan. It sets up a point system for INSURANCE separate from the drivers license point system. So, this adds a level of complexity. It says “incentive plan,” but what it really does is selectively raise the rates for insurance distinct from the drivers license scheme. Let’s take an example: If you get a ticket for failing to stop for a siren, that’s 3 DL points (same as speeding over 55), but it’s also 1 insurance (SDIP) point. What that 1 SDIP point means is that the insurance company can/will raise your rate by 25% (ouch!). If you get hit with 3 SDIP points, that’s a 65% increase in your insurance rate.
Let’s go back to a previous example: the >55. If you’re ticketed going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, that offense is worth 3 DL points AND 2 SDIP points (that’s a potential insurance increase of 45%). If you just pay the ticket and mail it in, congratulations! you’ve just plead guilty/responsible to the offense and those points have been recorded in your DMV file in NC.
An attorney will help you figure out the best solution to your particular problem. Will the District Attorney reduce the charge? Can I use a PJC? You know, I think that’s my new catchphrase: “No, you don’t *need* an attorney. But, you may want one!”
Let me know in the comments if this was helpful. In the meantime, check out our website at www.jslawcenter.com.
Next Topic: LLC or INC, starting a business in NC.
Well, it’s about time I did something with this blog. It’s been too dormant too long. I’ll start with an easy topic that I’ve been explaining to several folks recently: the PJC.
You’ll often hear the term “PJC” thrown around when talking with an attorney or someone who’s recently gotten (or thinks they’ve gotten out of) a speeding ticket.
In North Carolina traffic law, PJC stands for Prayer for Judgement Continued. You see, NC has this little tweek in the traffic and infraction laws that let you “pray” for the Court to “continue your judgement” or suspend making a ruling on this particular issue. Essentially, when you ask the Court for a PJC, you’re telling the court “It was a mistake, I promise I’ll never do it again.” In return for that pseudo-promise, the Court doesn’t convict you for whatever that was (let’s say speeding). At least they don’t do it right now.
See, that’s the catch. In North Carolina, you’re only allowed 1 PJC every three years, per household. If, within 3 years, you commit the same offense or something very similar, the Court revokes the PJC and charges you with both offenses at that time. So, let’s say that you’re caught speeding. You go into court and ask for a PJC. Let’s review some options:
- Option 1 – you’ve got a clean record, and no one in your house has used a PJC in the last 3 years. Great! The Court grants the PJC, you pay your court costs, you go home and everything is great. Just don’t do it again!
- Option 2 – you’ve got a clean record, but your sister, who lives with you, used a PJC last year when she ran a stop sign. Too bad. You’re out of luck and on the hook for the speeding ticket, the court costs, the insurance increase and the points on your license. Not a great outcome.
- Option 3 – you’ve got a couple of speeding tickets in the past few years, but you’ve always paid them by sending in the money and the ticket on time. You’ve never used a PJC, and no one in your house has either. Great! The Court grants the PJC, you pay your court costs, you go home and everything is great. Just don’t do it again!
- Option 4 – you used your PJC a year ago for running a stop sign. Now you’re up for a speeding ticket. The Court sees you’ve got a PJC for a similar offense, and revokes the PJC. Now you’re up for the speeding ticket fine, the court costs from the speeding ticket, the stop sign ticket fine, the insurance increase for both tickets, and (probably) driver’s license points for both tickets. The worst outcome.
So, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, if the chances are only 50/50 that I could get a good outcome, why would I use a PJC? I should just pay the ticket!” Maybe, maybe not.
See, if you use a PJC and keep clean for three years, at the end the PJC evaporates and your charges with it! That means that while you’re under the PJC any points (insurance or driver’s license points) don’t count against you. When the PJC is over, if you’ve kept clean, it’s like the ticket never happened, the points don’t ever count against you. Now, if you paid the ticket, you’d be paying the fine, the court costs, and get the points assessed against you. Whether you use a PJC or not, you’re likely to get stuck with court costs. If you use the PJC, you generally pay the court costs, but not the fine. It’s cheaper in the short term and in the long term if you use a PJC and keep your record clean.
If you can foresee a time (for whatever reason) that you may get caught with a worse offense than you’re up for right now, it may make sense to save your PJC for later or for someone else in the house – say… for your 16 year old daughter who can barely afford the insurance as it is. Also, you can’t use a PJC for just any offense. If you’re collared on a DUI, don’t ask for a PJC, they’ll laugh at you. And the Court can decide not grant a PJC in a given situation if they think you don’t deserve it (for example, you were caught speeding but it was while you were passing a highway patrol car in active pursuit). Knowing when, and how, to use a PJC is one of the reasons that you may want a lawyer to help you with the process, even though you could represent yourself.
Let me know in the comments if this was helpful. In the meantime, if you’d like more information or to consult with an attorney, check out our website at www.jslawcenter.com
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