Thursday, April 01, 2021

NC PJC Disposition Counts for Criminal History Point

US v. Miller: Miller pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, the main issue was the proper calculation of his criminal history score, particularly whether a criminal history point should be added for a prior North Carolina "prayer for judgment" (PJC) disposition, where Miller pleaded guilty to marijuana possession, but no sentence was ever imposed or judgment entered. The district court concluded that it did count and sentenced Miller to the top of the resulting Guideline range.


On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Miller's sentence. The Guidelines, the court noted, add a point (up to four points total) for any "prior sentence" of less than 60 days, with "prior sentence" being defined to include a "conviction for which the imposition . . . of sentence was totally suspended or stayed." While "diversionary" findings made "without a finding of guilt" are excluded, where there is an admission of guilt the point is awarded "even if a conviction is not formally entered." That is what happened to Miller, who pleaded guilty to the possession offense, but no judgment was entered. In the end, it didn't matter how North Carolina law treats a PJC disposition, only whether it came within the language of the Guideline, which it did.

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