The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through a plea. This is when the defendant acknowledges culpability for the crimes that he is charged with and waives his right to a trial.

In exchange for waiving his right to a trial, the defendant should receive a more lenient punishment–often a term of probation rather than a jail sentence.

Pleas can be either “agreed” or “unagreed.”

When a plea is “agreed,” both the defendant and the prosecution approve of its terms. Such a plea will almost always be approved by the judge.

(All pleas must be “adopted” by the judge pursuant to Rule of 12 the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal.)

On the other hand, many pleas are “unagreed.” This, of course, means that the defendant and the prosecutor disagree on at least some of the plea deal’s terms.

The most frequently contested plea term is whether the defendant will plead “guilty” or merely admit to “facts sufficient for a finding of guilty” and thus have the matter “continued without a finding” (CWOF).

It’s the prosecution, of course, who insists on the plea of “guilty” while the defendant most often argues for a CWOF.

If the offense is not serious and the defendant’s criminal record is minimal, the judge will usually adopt a CWOF as the case’s final disposition.

This will spare a defendant with no existing record from acquiring the designation of “convicted criminal” or “felony.”

Additionally, it may eliminate the risk of receiving a harsher punishment in the future if the defendant commits a “second or subsequent offense.”