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What are the Possible Dispositions of Criminal Cases in Massachusetts?

criminal dispositions massachusetts attorney

Massachusetts criminal cases can conclude anywhere from guilty to not guilty, and many places in between.  The dispositions of criminal cases in Massachusetts are wide and depend on the exact situation of your case.  You need an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to help you get the best possible disposition.

Dismissed Prior to Arraignment:  This is the best possible conclusion for your criminal case.  It means that the case will not appear on your record.  Unfortunately, whether to arraign your case is a decision completely up to the district attorney, meaning that if the DA does not agree to dismiss your case prior to arraignment (sometimes called diversion), you cannot get this disposition.  Winning a clerk magistrate’s hearing similarly means the case does not appear on your criminal record.

Dismissed (after arraignment):  This means the case will appear on your record but will show up as a dismissal, not a conviction.  This can be accomplished in many ways – such as a “nolle prosse” by the district attorney or the judge dismissing the case for a variety of reasons.  You can get a dismissal removed from your record through expungement or sealing your record.  Cases are also dismissed after the completion of pretrial probation.

Convert to Civil Violation:  Some offenses can be converted to non-criminal violations at all and become a civil violation, akin to a traffic ticket. It may still appear on your record, but not as a criminal offense at all.  This is also up to the DA to reduce the charges, meaning if the DA does not agree to convert it to a civil violation, it cannot happen.

Continuance without a Finding (CWOF):   A continuance without a finding technically can conclude in a dismissal, but it is also essentially a plea.  You have to admit to sufficient facts to find you guilty, and then you’re placed on probation.  If you complete the probation, the case will be dismissed.  However, this does count as a conviction for immigration purposes.  It is up to the judge whether to impose a CWOF and can give you a CWOF even if the DA does not agree.  If you do not complete probation, the judge can impose jail time, including up to the maximum sentence for the offense.

Not Guilty:  A not guilty, or acquittal, can only be given after a trial.  Unlike a dismissal, this means the case cannot come back in any way — no one can refile the case if a judge or jury finds you not guilty.  The case will still appear on your record, but it will show that you have been found not guilty.

Guilty:  You can either plead guilty or be found guilty after a trial.  The judge can impose a variety of sentences, including probation, a suspended sentence, or jail/prison time.  This will cause the full consequences of a conviction.


If you are charged with a crime in Massachusetts, you need a criminal defense attorney to secure the best possible disposition of your criminal case.  Call or text me today at 617-295-7500.



Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

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