Photo taken by Ian Britton: http://www.ianbritton.co.uk/
If you ever find yourself in court, you will notice the long waiting time before your case gets heard. However, once your case is finally called, you will also notice that your case goes very quickly. As a result of this imperfect legal system, many people are left confused about their court case.
Because the process is so quick, a lot of people do things that they regret later. One of the most common problems is when people take a plea bargain without knowing the possible consequences. This happens quite often when people plead out to a continuance without a finding, or CWOF most commonly called by the court. I call a CWOF one of the most dangerous pleas because there is so much confusion out there, and the confusion leads to huge problems.
So to clarify, a CWOF is not a conviction. If you plead to a CWOF you are not admitting you are guilty, instead you are admitting that there are sufficient facts to find you guilty.
A CWOF will put you on probation for a certain amount of time. The terms of probation is set by the judge. The probation period is usually set at 6 months to 1 year, but it can be any period of time.
One of the major issues with CWOFs is that most people think that the charge disappears from their record at the end of probation. This is false. The charge does not disappear from your record. Most judges and lawyers will say to a person that if they have no problems while on probation the case will be dismissed. Those words usually lead people to believe the charge actually disappears. In fact, the record will show the charge, show that a person admitted to a CWOF, and later show the word dismissed. The original charge remains on the record.
Another problem is that people don’t realize the severity of the punishment that they may face. If you plead out to a CWOF and violate your probation, the charge can now become a guilty conviction. If the judge does withdraw the CWOF and imposed a guilty conviction, the judge may impose the maximum penalty for that charge. It doesn’t mean you will face the maximum penalty, but the judge has the discretion to impose the maximum penalty.
If you have immigration issues, then a CWOF could be devastating. Immigration treats a CWOF the same as a guilty finding. Immigration has its own rules and does not care how the criminal system defines a conviction. As a result, you can be deported because you plead out to a CWOF.
Finally, for certain crimes, a CWOF counts for the purpose of subsequent offenses. For example, if you plead out to a CWOF for operation while under the influence (OUI) and then get arrested for another OUI, you will be charged with OUI second offense. It doesn’t matter that you plead out to a CWOF on your first OUI. Needless to say second and subsequent offenses carry heavier penalties. The court rooms are busy, your case will go fast, but make sure you are aware of all the consequences before you plead to a CWOF.
For more information: visit www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902