A CWOF is a continuance without a fining. You will see on a CORI, which is your Criminal Offender Record Information, or your BOP, your rap sheet, the letters CWOF, and that stands for continuance without a fining. What that means is that you’ve entered a plea, you’ve made an admission to the court that there is sufficient evidence to result in a guilty finding, however, based on either your lawyer’s recommendation or the prosecutor’s recommendation the court, being the judge, agrees to continue the matter without a fining for a period of time. And a guilty finding does not enter on your court record or on your CORI record. That’s significant and important because under state law, it’s not considered a criminal conviction. So you can avoid a criminal conviction by obtaining a continuance without a fining. During that one year that it’s continued, your placed on probation, your subject to restrictions and conditions and if you violate the terms and conditions the CWOF can be vacated and a guilty finding entered on your record. So you can lose the benefit of the continuance without a fining if you violate the terms of your probation. In an OUI first offense, the most common disposition that you see by way of a plea is a continuance without a fining under the section 24 D of Chapter 90 the drunk driving statute.
People will oftentimes come in to see me on a second offense, OUI or DUI, and say to me “I had a continuance without a fining 6 years ago or 12 years ago, it’s not a conviction.” It is, for purposes of a drunk driving second offense, a conviction. The continuance without a fining is treated by the courts and the registry of motor vehicles as your first drunk driving offense, regardless of whether it’s continued without a fining or not. For that reason, I am not a person who is in favor of walking into court, pleading clients out and getting a continuance without a fining on a typical first offense. I would rather try that case, obtain a dismissal or an acquittal of not guilty, and if a guilty enters, the penalty is, in all likelihood, going to be exactly the same, the only difference being it’s a guilty fining vs. a CWOF. The reason being that continuance without a fining is going to be treated as your first offense for the rest of your life and under Melanie’s Law, you’ve then given away a conviction, a first offense, that will be used against you, possibly for the rest of your life if you were ever to be charged again with a drunk driving offense.