What Does it Mean to Have a Criminal Case Continued Without a Finding?
Criminal defense clients often have a difficult decision when deciding how to proceed with their case. They may go to trial, plead guilty without a finding, seek pretrial probation, or seek pretrial diversion or another outcome, depending on facts of the case. If you are evaluating your options going forward in a criminal case against you, we can help you weigh your best options.
Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF) is common in cases where the evidence supports a guilty finding. This is when the defendant acknowledges guilt for pleading purposes, but the court does not enter a guilty finding. Instead, it continues the case which will be dismissed upon completion of certain conditions. These conditions may include a probationary term often lasting six months to a year. The length will be determined by the seriousness of crime, the defendant’s age and criminal history, the impact of the disposition on victims, and many other considerations. CWOF is common for less serious offences, when there is a presence of mitigating circumstances, and when dealing with a defendant with few prior offenses. The court does not need the permission of the prosecution to issue this finding. One of the most important considerations when it comes to CWOF is that you are waiving your right to a jury trial. This is very important, because it could have very serious consequences if you break the terms of your probation.
Terms of probation may include:
- Complying with the law and other court orders
- Reporting to a probation officer
- Completing programs such as alcohol education, drug treatment, or anger management
- Drug testing
- Payment of fines or restitution
- Completion of community service
- Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
- Complying with travel and curfew restrictions
- No new criminal charges
If terms of the defendant’s probation are breached, the defendant must attend a hearing to determine if the CWOF will be revoked, and a guilty verdict will be entered. The outcome could very well be a guilty verdict and the relevant penalties that come with it. You will not be afforded a jury trial at this stage if you were afforded CWOF.
There are pros and cons to CWOF. Notably, defendants can avoid the consequences of having a criminal conviction on their record. If a job application asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you can answer “no.” The disposition will, however, appear on your “Board of Probation” record as a CWOF/dismissal, which is accessible by law enforcement and other parties if they conduct an extensive background check. You can contact an attorney about the possibility of sealing your record, which may be allowed if you have completed your probation, the case was dismissed, and you have no subsequent criminal violations. This finding can also present issues such as loss of a firearm license or immigration issues. Immigration authorities treat CWOF as a conviction. Furthermore, for OUI offenses it can increase your car insurance rates. It also counts as an OUI offense for sentencing purposes for subsequent OUIs. CWOF should be thoughtfully considered as it relates to OUI offenses.
Pursuing a CWOF requires the careful weighing of many factors and may determine whether your record is marked for years to come. Altman & Altman LLP has an experienced team of criminal defense attorneys that are well versed in these legal processes. We are here to help you avoid the common mistakes many defendants make when arguing their case. For further information about a criminal case, please call us toll free 800.481.6199. We look forward to helping you.