What is a CWOF in a Criminal Case?
Under Massachusetts Criminal Laws, agreeing to a Continuance without a Finding is not the same as pleading guilty. Technically, it is an admission that “there are sufficient facts to find you guilty” of the charges. Pleading to a CWOF will happen at a pre-trial conference as part of a plea agreement, if your attorney can get the prosecutor to agree.
A continuance without a finding (also sometimes called a continuation without a finding), or a CWOF (pronounced “quaff”). It is similar to a nolo contendere or no contest plea in other states. A continuance plea may be available to you in Massachusetts Criminal Courts if you are facing misdemeanor charges for drug possession, assault, 1st offense OUI charges, many driving charges such as operating on a suspended license or without a license or insurance, operating to endanger (reckless driving), and other misdemeanor first offense criminal charges.
Why Agree to a CWOF?
If your case is continued without a finding, it can help you in cases where a finding of guilty would cause you problems in your career or educational opportunities. Some job applications ask you if you’ve ever been found guilty of a crime, and you can honestly answer “no”. A guilty plea vs. a cwof may make a difference for certain law enforcement careers, security clearances, the right to own certain firearms, eligibility for certain scholarships or financial aid, or many other reasons.
A guilty plea vs. a cwof may make a difference for certain law enforcement careers, security clearances, the right to own certain firearms, eligibility for certain scholarships or financial aid, or many other reasons.
A CWOF will not make any difference vs. a guilty plea if you are found guilty of the same offense in the future. It will stay on your record, and will absolutely be used against you in the future if you are charged with a second offense, particularly with an OUI.
If you are facing a criminal charge in Massachusetts and are wondering of you may be eligible to plead to a CWOF, give me a call for a free criminal defense consultation.
A CWOF is not a “slap on the wrist”, and can have future consequences, but it is a good outcome in many cases.
Is a CWOF a conviction?
A CWOF is not a conviction. If you agree to a CWOF, you have not been convicted of a crime.
But a CWOF will count as a “prior offense” if you are charged with another crime in the future.
Will a CWOF show up on my CORI report?
Yes, during the time of the continuance (usually 6 months to a year), the charge will show as continued. However, a CWOF will automatically clear from your public CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) after that time since it is not a conviction.
But a CWOF avoids a misdemeanor conviction, which would sit on your CORI for 5 years. And for certain high-level background checks were a CWOF might appear, it is possible for it to be sealed quicker than a conviction, protecting your public record during background checks.
But in some cases, a CWOF, even an old one, can still cause you problems. For example, a CWOF will show up for rideshare driver (uber/lyft) background checks and disqualify you from driving.
Why is it a CWOF and not a CWAF ?
Good question, CWOF is what it is generally called in court documents.
But it’s true that Continued WithOut a Finding doesn’t really make any more sense than Continued Without A Finding.
Other Sentencing Alternatives
There are a number of other alternative sentencing options and ways to avoid a criminal conviction on your record that can be even better than a CWOF.
- Diversion Programs
- Pretrial Probation
I lay out some of these sentencing options here, but the short answer is, these options are often the best choice to avoid a criminal conviction on your record, and the problems that could cause you in the future.
I’ll consult with you and discuss all your options before you even decide if you want to hire me. Defending people accused of crimes is what I do for a living. Call to set up a free consultation now to find out if I can help you.