Massachusetts Continuance Without a Finding

A Massachusetts continuance without a finding is also referred to as a “CWOF.” Though a CWOF involves an admission that the government has sufficient evidence to support a guilty finding, the court does not enter a guilty finding and continues the case for a period of time to be dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary term and its conditions. Cases are most often continued for a period of one year, but they can be continued for any time period. In determining the length of the probationary period, factors considered include the seriousness of the crime, the impact on a victim or victims, the defendant’s age and criminal history, and more. Once the defendant successfully completes the probationary term and satisfies its conditions, the case will be dismissed.

Conditions of probation may include compliance with laws and court orders and no new charges, reporting to a probation officer, completion of programs such as alcohol education, drug treatment/testing or anger management, payment of fines, fees or restitution, and completion of community service.

A CWOF effectively allows a defendant to earn a dismissal and avoid certain consequences of having a criminal conviction on his or her record. For example, if asked whether you have been convicted of a criminal offense on a job application, you can honestly answer “no” if you have received a continuance without a finding.

Violation of a CWOF

If a defendant fails to satisfy the conditions of the continuance without a finding or gets arrested during the probationary term, he or she will be subject to a hearing on the probation violation, and the CWOF may be revoked. In the event of a violation, the court may enter a guilty finding and sentence the defendant up to the statutory maximum. The court may alternatively continue the CWOF, or other dispositions may be negotiated. It is important to contact an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney in the event of a probation violation.

Massachusetts CWOF: What to Expect

A judge can continue a case without a finding without the agreement of the prosecutor. Thus, a defendant may recommend and argue for a CWOF even where the prosecution does not recommend that disposition. Your attorney will advise you as to whether a CWOF would be a good result in your case, considering, among other things, the nature of the charges, the potential punishment, the strength of the Commonwealth’s evidence against you, and the strength of evidence favorable to you. Your attorney will also advise as to the rights you would waive by making an admission to sufficient facts, such as the right to a jury trial, the right to cross-examine witnesses, the right to present evidence, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will advise as to any immigration consequences of admitting to sufficient facts. If, after discussing these and other issues with your lawyer, you decide that you would like to pursue a continuance without a finding, you and your attorney will review and execute a “green sheet,” which sets forth the recommendation of a CWOF and its terms and confirms that you understand the charges and the rights you waive by an admission to sufficient facts. On the green sheet, the prosecutor will also submit his or her recommendation. The judge will ask you some questions to determine that you are acting voluntarily and intelligently. The prosecutor will present the factual basis of the charge. If the judge is satisfied that there is a sufficient factual basis for a guilty finding, he or she can enter the admission to sufficient facts and continue the case without a finding. In the District Court, the defendant has the right to withdraw the admission to sufficient facts if the disposition imposed would exceed the terms of the defendant’s recommendation.

Effects of a Massachusetts CWOF

If a defendant successfully completes the probationary term associated with a CWOF, the case is dismissed. Thus, for many practical purposes, such as those involving employment or education opportunities, the defendant does not have a “conviction.” However, the CWOF will appear on the defendant’s record as a CWOF/dismissal, and this can be accessed by law enforcement and possibly by other parties if such parties conduct an extensive background check. If you have a continuance without a finding on your record, you may want to contact a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer about sealing your record.

A CWOF can also carry consequences involving immigration, firearm licensing, and operating under the influence. These issues should all be discussed with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Stephen Neyman (617) 263-6800

Massachusetts criminal defense attorney Stephen Neyman has decades of experience handling criminal matters throughout the Commonwealth. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at (617) 263-6800. Attorney Neyman will fight to achieve the best possible result in your case. He represents clients in all Massachusetts courts. Attorney Neyman’s office can be reached at all times, so do not hesitate to call day or night.

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