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What is a Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF)?- Massachusetts

A continuance without a finding, or CWOF, is exactly what the words mean. If you work out a deal to receive a CWOF, you are admitting that the prosecution does have enough evidence against you for a reasonable jury to find you guilty of the charged offense. Instead of fighting the case you are agreeing to be placed on probation and the court will continue your case for a certain period of time (usually one year) WITHOUT A GUILTY FINDING, so long as you adhere to your conditions of probation. However, if you fail to adhere to your conditions of probation or are charged with any new offenses before the case is dismissed, your case may come back in front of a judge, your CWOF may be revoked, and a GUILTY finding may enter, along with additional penalties, including jail. If you are able to successfully complete your term of probation without any problems, your case will be dismissed.

While the specific conditions of Probation will depend on the nature and severity of the charges, some common Massachusetts Conditions of Probation may include, among others:

  • No new criminal charges during the time you are on probation
  • Reporting to probation as required (depending on the level of your probation supervision, this may be done by mail in some cases)
  • Paying all court ordered fines, fees, and restitution to any victims
  • Completing any and all mandatory classes (For example, alcohol education classes if on probation for OUI, or possibly anger management classes if on probation for a violent offense, or drug counseling/treatment if on probation for a drug crime)
  • Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
  • Adhering to travel & curfew restrictions
  • Drug & alcohol testing
  • Community service
I Completed Probation and My Case Was Dismissed. What Now?

The practical effect of a CWOF is that you will NOT HAVE A CRIMINAL CONVICTION. This may be important for purposes of school and/ or employment. Most employers or institutes of higher education do not perform a full background check, but instead will ask on the application, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” With a CWOF, the truthful answer will still be “No.”

Although a CWOF may appear as a dismissal on your record, it is never removed from your "Board of Probation" record that is readily accessible to law enforcement. Additionally, if a third party (potential employer, professional licensing board, etc.) performs a full background check, the CWOF may still appear, depending on the level of the check. A CWOF may also have collateral consequences outside of court, including the potential loss of your firearm license, or immigration issues if you are not a U.S. citizen. If you received a CWOF for Operating Under the Influence or any other motor vehicle offense, your car insurance rates will increase (usually five points for an OUI), and the CWOF will always count as your first OUI offense. This means that if you are ever arrested again for drunk driving, no matter how much time has passed, you will be charged with a 2nd Offense, facing harsher penalties, and you will be required to install the Interlock Ignition Device. Additionally, a CWOF for a drunk driving charge or other crime may prevent you from entering Canada.

Under the new Massachusetts record sealing law, your attorney can now file a motion to seal your record for any CWOF, so long as the period of probation has ended, the case has been dismissed, and you have not had any subsequent criminal convictions.

Contact my office if you've been charged with a Massachusetts Criminal Offense, or would like to further discuss the consequences of a CWOF. I am available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for your free initial consultation.

Urbelis Law, LLC

1 State St #200
Boston, MA 02109
Phone: (617) 830-2188

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