Criminal records are full of strange terms, abbreviations and legal jargon often making them difficult to decipher. Here are a few of the more common terms relating to case dispositions and their meanings that often show up in criminal history reports:
Nolle Prosequi – The prosecutor declares that he/she will not proceed with prosecuting the case at this time. This is not the same as an acquittal as the case may be reopened at a later time;
Nolo Contendere – A defendant may enter this (no contest) as his or her plea. It means the defendant will not contest the charges but neither admits guilt or claims innocence but agrees to accept punishment.
Pre-Trial Probation – We see this in some MA cases. It’s a court approved agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant before a trial or a guilty plea. The defendant is under the care of a probation officer for a set period of time. Certain conditions may be imposed during this time such as performing community service, seeking or retaining employment, or drug or alcohol testing. If the defendant successfully completes the probationary period, charges are dropped. But, if the agreed upon terms are violated, the original case will proceed normally.
Pre-Trial Intervention – This is one we see in NJ cases on occasion. Generally offered to first-time offenders and usually seeks to provide rehabilitative services to the defendant. Similar to pre-trial probation, if pre-trial intervention is successfully completed, there is no record of conviction.
Stet – This one shows up frequently in some reports out of MD. It means “to stand” or “let it stand” and signifies a motion made by the state’s attorney for a conditional, indefinite stay of all further proceedings on a particular charge. The state can bring the charges back into court if the defendant gets into further trouble or fails to live up to any terms that were agreed to within a reasonable time period after the entry of stet.
Continued Without Finding – This is another very common disposition in MA. This is a plea agreement that technically is an admission that there are sufficient facts to find the defendant guilty of the charges. It is sometimes called a CWOF (pronounced quaff) and is similar to a plea of no contest in other states. The charges can be brought back if the defendant gets into further trouble within the continued timeframe.
Deferred Adjudication – This one shows up most often in cases out of TX and is similar to pre-trial intervention. Usually reserved for minor crimes or first offenders, if the defendant stays out of trouble and completes community service, an alcohol awareness program or some other condition set by the court during the deferral period, the charges are dismissed.