What is An “Admission To Sufficient Facts” in Massachusetts?

In my profession as a Norfolk County criminal defense lawyer, there are times when someone I am representing – the defendant – under my advisement, will enter a plea of “Admission to Sufficient Facts.” Since most people do not know what this means, here is a brief overview.

When a defendant enters a plea of “Admission to Sufficient Facts,” he or she is, in essence, admitting that if the case were to go to trial, the prosecution would be able to present sufficient evidence to secure a guilty finding, from either a jury or judge. Instead, subject to the prosecutor’s agreement, the defendant enters a plea of “Admission To Sufficient Facts” instead of actually pleading guilty. This procedure comes from an old trial system and it has been abolished by the state legislature in Massachusetts. However, it is still used by defendants as a way for the defendant’s case to be continued without a guilty finding (which I’ll further explain in a moment). This form of plea may be refused by the judge, or it may be conditionally accepted upon the compliance of the defendant with certain requirements advanced by the prosecution.

The types of charges that a defendant to plea Admission To Sufficient Facts to are several. They can include, as a partial list, armed robbery, larceny by stealing, OUI (drunk-driving), domestic violence and kidnapping.

What is the finding of “Continued Without A Finding?” This is essentially the same a an “Admission To Sufficient Facts.” The defendant essentially agrees to not contest the charges against him or her, and promises to comply with the judge’s terms and conditions to avoid a formal finding of guilt on the record. In practice, a defendant will usually just admit to sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilty, which is treated as an offer to plead guilty for the purposes of the specific procedure. A defendant who enters a plea of “Continuance Without A Finding” offers to plead guilty, and then specifically requests two things. First, that a guilty finding will not be entered on his or her record. And second, that the case will be continued to a specific date, at which time the judge will dismiss the case – assuming, of course, that the defendant will comply with the judge’s terms and conditions for granting the continuance. If a judge does in fact allow the “CWOF,” the records must show the judge’s reasons for granting the request.

If the case is dismissed in the future because the defendant has complied with all terms of the plea agreement, it means that no criminal conviction will ever appear on the defendant’s record. But – the arraignment of the defendant on the charge(s), and the continuance itself, will appear on the record. The actual admission to facts can have other legal consequences, for example, with regard to immigration status.

If you have questions about immigration consequences of the above pleas, contact an experienced Dedham defense lawyer.