What is Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF) in Massachusetts?
A defendant admits that the facts contained in the police report are true and that they could be found guilty. Instead of the court imposing a guilty finding, however, the court agrees to continue (i.e., postpone) making a finding until a specified date, generally with certain conditions like probation that must be met while the matter is continued. If all conditions of probation are met by the specified end date, the case is dismissed. There is no guilty finding. Our Massachusetts criminal defense attorney details further.
How does a CWOF work?
When a defendant admits to sufficient facts and a CWOF is entered, the following steps must occur (often orally at a hearing in District Court as well as acknowledged in writing):
The defendant waives his or her right to a trial by jury in writing, and the judge must advise the defendant of his or her constitutional right to a jury trial and be satisfied that any waiver by the defendant is made voluntarily and intelligently.
The judge must be satisfied that there is a factual basis for a finding guilty.
The judge must inform the defendant that, by admitting to sufficient facts, the defendant waives his or her right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him or her and to call witnesses on his or her own behalf if the conditions of the continuance are violated.
If the defendant indicates that he or she understands the rights he or she is waiving and wishes to waive them, the judge may enter the admission to sufficient facts on the record and continue the case with any conditions to which the parties have agreed.
A CWOF will typically range from a few months up to a couple of years.
What happens if CWOF is violated?
If the conditions of a continuance are violated by the defendant, the CWOF may be converted into the guilty, but not necessarily: a hearing will be held on the violation and the Judge has the discretion to impose of one-five different outcomes. When it is determined that one or more conditions of probation imposed together with a CWOF have been violated, the following dispositional options are available to the court:
- Termination of probation: the court may terminate the probation requirements associated with the CWOF and dismiss the underlying criminal case.
- Continuation of the CWOF with no probation modification: the court may further continue CWOF and may impose the same probation conditions.
- Continuation of the CWOF with modification of probation: the court may continue the CWOF and modify the conditions of probation of the CWOF.
- Termination of the CWOF and no revocation of probation: the court may terminate the CWOF without revoking probation and enter a guilty finding.
- Termination of the CWOF and revocation of probation: the court may terminate the CWOF, revoke probation, enter a guilty finding, and impose a sentence.
If the defendant successfully completes the term of the continuance, the matter will be dismissed. There is no guilty finding.