This is always one of the first questions people have and rightfully so. Having a conviction appear on your criminal history can create huge issues for employment, travel, and immigration (just to name a few).
The answer will depend on the charge and whether or not you are convicted. Let’s walk through it.
In New Jersey, there are motor vehicle offenses under Title 39, Disorderly Persons Offenses under Title 2C and indicatable offenses under Title 2C. There are also Municipal Ordinance Offenses that are enacted by each municipality/city. Ordinance violations are not under the State code (not Title 39 or Title 2C).
Title 39 offenses appear on your driving record/abstract. Not on your criminal record. This includes DWI and Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle. You can’t remove items from your driving record. They stay forever. This is different than criminal.
Title 2C convictions appear on your criminal record or CCH. A charge or being charged is not the same as being convicted. Only convictions appear on a CCH (some refer to it as a RAP sheet). If you are not convicted, meaning you were not found guilty or pleaded guilty, then you don’t have a record, but there are some exceptions.
Pre-trial intervention and Conditional Discharge programs do not result in conviction. Nonetheless, you will have a record that your completed the program. You can remove this record through a process called expungement six months after you complete the program.
Additionally, anytime you are arrested or charged under Title 2C, there is a record of that charge, even if it is subsequently dismissed. However, you can expunge a record of the arrest/charge immediately upon dismissal.
Municipal Ordinances, although low level violations, may still appear on your record. Maybe you were issued one of these when you and your friends rented that shore house and the party got a little out of hand. You can expunge these too.
There is a waiting period for expungement. You must wait five year to expunge a disorderly persons offense, 5-10 years for an indictable, and 2 years for an ordinance. The clock does not start to run until the fines are paid, the probation is completed or the jail time has been served (whichever date is latest)
It is clear that the information highway opens our closets up like never before. In this day and age you should assume that any trouble you have or had will follow you and be seen by the outside world.
If you find yourself in a situation, big or small, it is smart to figure out how it may affect you in the future by seeking legal counsel.