People often ask me “What is a CWOF?” in Massachusetts? It’s a funny term but it’s really just an acronym. A CWOF is a “continuance without a finding.” This is a disposition that is meant for a first time offender, one that has not had a criminal matter in a long time or other person with a short record. A CWOF is a “second chance.” It gives you the opportunity to save yourself from getting a criminal record.
If you receive a CWOF, you waive all of your rights to trial by Judge or Jury and admit that the Court has sufficient facts to find you guilty. You are not admitting guilt. Rather, you are agreeing that the Commonwealth has enough evidence to meet its burden. You are placed on probation (supervised or unsupervised, which will be determined by the Court) for a certain period of time with or without conditions.
If you comply with all the terms of your probation, your matter will be dismissed at the end of that probation. This is a very positive outcome. Those that receive a CWOF and do well on probation are rewarded with the absence of a conviction on their record.
If you do not comply with the terms of the probation, you will receive a violation of probation. If you are found in violation of the terms and conditions of your probation, the Court can revoke the CWOF and enter a Guilty finding. It can then sentence you up to the maximum period of incarceration that the charge imposes. At this stage, you are not entitled to then request a trial.
If you are in a situation where you are new to the criminal system, or where you’ve been absent from it for an extended period of time, talk with counsel to see if a CWOF is available for you.