Not a week goes by where someone doesn’t call me to ask about the significance of a continuance without a finding. The typical question is “will I have a record if my case was continued without a finding?” The answer to this is case specific. If someone tells you that a continuance without a finding (CWOF) means that you have no criminal record you have been given bad advice. CWOFs serve a purpose that can in some instances be very beneficial. Other times however the impact of a CWOF can be devastating. This post examines certain aspects of a criminal case disposition through a CWOF.
A Continuance Without A Finding Is Viewed As A Conviction For Immigration Purposes
Massachusetts does not necessarily view a CWOF as a conviction. So for many people there is a sense of relief when they can resolve their case with a CWOF. There is however a major problem with this perception for non-citizens. The federal government views a continuance without a finding as a conviction for immigration purposes. So, for example, a citizen charged with domestic assault and battery might jump at the availability of a CWOF. He or she can simply comply with the conditions of probation and the case will be dismissed. Yet for a non- citizen a CWOF on a domestic assault case can be the kiss of death. Domestic assault and battery if viewed as a deportable offense. Anyone who had one of these cases CWOF’d risks being deported or denied naturalization.
The same applies for certain drug offenses. For example, Massachusetts treats the crime of possession with intent to distribute Class D, marijuana as a misdemeanor. The feds treat this as a felony. Consequently, a CWOF on a possession with the intent to distribute class D can adversely impact immigration or citizenship efforts. Make sure you discuss this with your criminal lawyer before resolving your case.
Judges and District Attorneys Can See That You Had a CWOF in the Past
Your board of probation printout will show that you had a case continued without a finding. Once you have a case CWOF’d there is a record that you got this type of break. So, if you get into trouble again the district attorney’s office and judges can see that the new case is not your first go around with the criminal justice system. While there is no bar to how many CWOF’s you can get, prosecutors and judges are hesitant to agree to multiple CWOF’s. Moreover, some crimes such as an OUI are viewed by the court as convictions. So, for instance, if you got a CWOF on an OUI and pick up and second OUI at anytime in your life that second arrest will be viewed as a second OUI. In essence, the first, CWOF’d OUI will count as a conviction. Again, be thorough and talk to your lawyer about this.
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
For nearly thirty years Attorney Stephen Neyman has been defending the accused and providing advice and representation for people charged with committing crimes. Getting a continuance without a finding can be a great way to resolve a criminal case in Massachusetts. However, at times CWOF can have negative collateral consequences. Call our office now at 617-263-6800 or send us an email if you need help. We will be happy to represent you.