“Is DWI a criminal charge in New Jersey? Will a DUI show up on a background check?”

Is DWI or DUI a criminal charge in New Jersey?

Answer: No. DWI is not a criminal charge and as a result, it will not show up on any type of criminal background check. This is good news if you were worried about your ability to find a job or apply for some type of housing.

DWI is referred to as a “quasi-criminal offense” in New Jersey. This basically means that it shares some of the characteristics of a criminal charge, but not all of them. This is true in the sense that you can potentially end up in jail depending on the severity of your offense, how you handle it, or the number of times you have been arrested for the charge. Still, the bottom line is: if you are convicted of DWI, you won’t have a permanent criminal record.

How is DWI Different from a Criminal Offense in NJ?

New Jersey has an idiosyncratic system for classifying criminal offenses, traffic offenses, and quasi-criminal offenses. It can be difficult to determine where a DWI fits into this system in terms of severity and in terms of the consequences for your record. In New Jersey, a DWI is ordinarily categorized as a traffic offense, not a criminal offense. It may be referred to as a quasi-criminal offense because some of the consequences of these cases mirror those of criminal charges. If you were driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08%, or driving with drugs in your system, you normally will face a traffic charge rather than a criminal one. Thus, a conviction for DUI will not appear on your criminal record.

It is important to note that you are not entitled to a trial by jury when facing a quasi-criminal offense like a standard DWI. This is different from criminal cases involving indictable offenses. In fact, any disorderly persons offense, DWI, or ordinance violation heard in municipal court will be decided by a single municipal court judge, as opposed to a group of your peers.

That fact that a DWI is technically a traffic offense does not exempt you from serious penalties and consequences if you are convicted. A DWI conviction can result in up to six months of jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and suspension of your driving privilege for months. Those penalties only apply to a first offense. Once you get into the second and third offense DWI categories, you can face license suspension for 2 years and 10 years, respectively. On top of that, a third offense DUI carries mandatory jail time for 180 days. A DWI conviction may also show up on some licensing background checks, despite the fact that it technically does not go on your criminal record. For example, having a prior DUI can present a serious problem if you are seeking a commercial driver’s license.

Can a DUI Lead to Criminal Charges?

DWI can lead to criminal charges when certain aggravating circumstances are present. For example, if you were driving with a child in the car and you were also driving while intoxicated, you can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child for DUI. Additionally, if you drive recklessly and are also driving drunk, and someone is injured, you may be charged with a crime for assault by auto.

Who Can Help with my NJ DWI Case?

If you are facing any kind of DWI charge, it is in your interests to consult a New Jersey DWI lawyer as soon as possible. The skilled team of NJ DWI defense attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm have accumulated a lengthy list of dismissals in courts throughout New Jersey. Contact us today at (201)-556-1570 to discuss your case. We can explain how your particular DWI is categorized, what penalties you may face, and how we can potentially beat your charges.

These videos explain ways that you can get out of DWI charges:

Challenge the Initial Motor Vehicle Stoppage
Challenge the Field Sobriety Tests
Challenge the 20 Minute Observation Period
Challenge the Alcotest 7110 machine itself


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With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

The Tormey Law Firm

Areas we serve

Bergen County, Essex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Somerset County including Morristown, Denville, Dover, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Elmwood Park, Englewood, Fort Lee, Garfield, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, Palisades Park, Paramus, Ridgefield Park, Saddle Brook, Teaneck, Clifton, and Wayne.

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    254 State Street Hackensack, NJ 07601

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