The Fourth Circuit has determined that a "prayer for judgment" in North Carolina, when accompanied only by an order to pay court costs, does not constitute a conviction for immigration purposes because these court costs do not constitute a punishment or penalty. "Because a punishment or penalty must be proportionate to a defendant’s wrongdoing, courts generally refuse to treat a monetary assessment as a punishment or penalty when the assessment solely reflects the costs of compensating a private party or the government for losses resulting from the wrongdoing." Congress intended the words "penalty" and "punishment" in the definition of a conviction to refer to "discretionary acts of judgment as opposed to the broader set of ministerial or administrative decrees or assessments a court may impose." "This requires a judge to order a punitive sanction—i.e., one that is intended to discipline or deter and is proportionate to the underlying offense conduct."
The full text of Guzman Gonzalez v. Sessions can be found here: