In most states, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a binary offense: By law, it must be considered both a traffic violation and a criminal offense. Whether a given impaired-driving offense is tried as a felony or misdemeanor depends upon multiple factors. In general, an incident that causes injury to another driver or can be linked to other reckless acts on the part of the individual being charged will be entered into the record as a felony charge.
Unlike most of their countrymen, drivers in New Jersey don't have to worry about this distinction. Beyond some hefty fines and an obligatory revocation of driving privileges for a lengthy period of time, New Jersey's legal system enforces no criminal penalties for drivers caught driving under the influence within its borders.
This may even be true for out-of-state drivers prosecuted for a DUI that occurred in New Jersey. While a New Jersey DUI may remain on your driving record for up to 10 years, it won't show up on your criminal record at all. Although your home state will decide how best to penalize you for the out-of-state crime that you committed, most jurisdictions have neither the inclination nor the resources to incarcerate their residents for non-felony out-of-state offenses. In most cases, you'll merely have your license suspended for up to a year and sentenced to perform community service.
If you're a New Jersey resident, your past DUI may still interfere with your ability to find employment. Although it won't show up on the standard criminal background check that most law enforcement agencies run on their job applicants, it will appear on your public driving record. During the five to 10 years that it remains active on your record, you may be disqualified from working in law enforcement. In fact, you may not be able to work for a government agency at all.
There is one exception to this rule. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, your offense may be regarded as "minor" relative to serious impaired-driving incidents that resulted in injury, death or third-party property damage. When screening its applicants' backgrounds, the New Jersey State Patrol ignores any stand-alone "minor" DUI violations. In other words, you must be convicted of two DUIs during a 10-year span to be disqualified from consideration for a state trooper position. However, local law enforcement agencies tend to be less lenient.