Most criminal cases in Massachusetts are resolved without the need to go to trial. Cases get dismissed, evidence gets suppressed, people get pretrial probation and some people plead guilty to their criminal charges. The majority of cases resolved in the Massachusetts district courts are continued without a finding. In essence that means that the accused admits to sufficient facts, or pleads guilty to those facts that support the underlying criminal offense. The judge refuses to accept the admission or plea. Instead, the case gets continued for a period of time during which you are, for all practical purposes on probation. If you successfully complete the probation the case gets dismissed. At that point you can swear on job applications or elsewhere, and under the pains and penalties of perjury, that you have no criminal record. For most people this is a great result. For others it can be a disaster. This post addresses the question “will a continuance without a finding (cwof) affect a professional license?
Your Lawyer Should Discuss All Ramifications of a CWOF With You
For many years people assumed that once the cwof was over and the case was dismissed there would be no collateral consequences. That is not always true. There are several professions that view a cwof as an admission of guilt. For example, doctors in their residence programs often have probationary periods as part of the process. At the end of that period a criminal background check is run. If they have a continuance without a finding that surfaces on particular charges they might get expelled from their residency program. Similarly, in some states, school teachers cannot have certain crimes cwof’d. It is virtually impossible for criminal defense lawyers to know the professional licensing rules for all states. Thus, it is important that you and your lawyer discuss this matter thoroughly before you resolve your criminal case. Most of the time an experienced conscientious lawyer will tell you to contact an attorney who specializes in that area of licensing to ensure that a cwof will not adversely impact your professional future.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
Always remember that you are the one being effected by the outcome of your criminal case. It is important for you to be proactive. Work with your lawyer. Talk to a representative from your licensing board. If you are in a union talk to your union representative or the union lawyer. They are likely to have information that your criminal defense lawyer is not familiar with. Anytime we have a client who has and needs a professional license we make sure that he gets particularized legal advice on that subject. We collaborate with the licensing lawyer to ensure that a cwof will have no negative consequences. If it does we let our client know and then together we weigh alternative options for resolving the case. It is important to get this right the first time.
Attorney Stephen Neyman has been in the business of defending criminal accusations for twenty-eight years. No one has our record for success. If you are in trouble call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email. We can help you.