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What Is a Continuance Without a Finding in Massachusetts?

Law Office of Joseph M Pacella May 26, 2023

Handcuff, Law Book and GavelFacing criminal charges can be a stressful and confusing experience, especially if it is your first time being charged with a criminal offense. When trying to navigate the legal system, you may come across the term “Continuance Without a Finding” or “CWOF.”  

If you are currently facing criminal charges and are considering a Continuance Without a Finding, it is crucial to understand what it means, what to expect, and what its advantages and disadvantages are. As a criminal defense attorney at Law Office of Joseph M Pacella, I can explain what a CWOF means and whether it is a good idea to accept it in your particular situation. From my office in Springfield, Massachusetts, I represent individuals facing criminal charges throughout Central and Western Massachusetts.  

Understanding Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF)

Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF) is a type of plea available in some states, including Massachusetts, that allows a defendant to plead guilty or admit to sufficient facts without getting a conviction on their record. Instead, the judge continues the case for a specific period, and if the defendant complies with the conditions set by the judge during that period, the case will be dismissed without a conviction. 

What to Expect if You Accept a Continuance Without a Finding?

If you accept a Continuance Without a Finding, you must comply with the conditions the judge sets forth at the hearing. These conditions usually include community service, probation, counseling, or treatment programs. The duration of the continuance can vary significantly, ranging from several months to a year or more, depending on the nature of the charges. During this time, you must demonstrate compliance with the judge’s orders. If you violate any of the conditions, the judge can revoke the continuance, and you will face a conviction and sentencing. 

When Is a CWOF Available?

A Continuance Without a Finding can be an available outcome in cases where there is not enough evidence to secure a conviction, or if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge. In Massachusetts, individuals facing charges for a first-time operating under the influence (OUI) are eligible to receive a CWOF.  

If the defendant has prior OUI convictions on their record, a CWOF will generally not be an option. Additionally, the prosecution may object to a CWOF in some cases, especially if they believe that the charges merit a conviction. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of a CWOF

One of the advantages of a CWOF is that it allows the defendant to avoid a formal guilty finding. This may be important for future employment or background checks. Additionally, if the defendant successfully completes probation, the charges may be dismissed entirely.  

However, one of the main disadvantages of a CWOF is that the defendant must admit to the facts of the case, which could be used against them in future legal proceedings. Furthermore, the defendant is still subject to certain probation conditions after accepting a CWOF.  

Massachusetts Conditions of Probation

Probation conditions in Massachusetts vary depending on the individual case and can include drug testing, community service, and attending counseling or treatment programs. Failure to comply with probation conditions can result in violations and potentially lead to the revocation of probation.  

If an individual violates probation, the probation officer will file a motion to revoke the CWOF and the case will proceed to a guilty finding. The individual then faces potential consequences such as imprisonment, fines, or more probation. 

Can You Seal a CWOF in Massachusetts?

In most cases, a CWOF can be sealed in Massachusetts after a certain period of time. The time frame varies based on the offense and whether the individual completed their probation. Once a CWOF is sealed, it is not considered a conviction and will not appear on most background checks. 

Contact Attorney Pacella for Trustworthy Legal Guidance

A Continuance Without a Finding can be a favorable option for individuals facing criminal charges in Massachusetts. However, it is crucial to understand the effects of accepting a CWOF and what it means for your future before making a decision. Reach out to my office to discuss your options. I will review the facts of your case and advise you on your best course of action.