Moral turpitude is a legal concept that refers to an act or behavior that gravely violates the moral standards of the community. Moral turpitude is not defined by statute, but by case law and interpretation by immigration authorities and courts.
Committing a crime that involves moral turpitude issues can have serious consequences for immigrants who are seeking to enter, stay, or become citizens of the United States.
Moral Turpitude and Immigration Laws
Moral turpitude is a significant factor in determining the admissibility, deportability, and eligibility for relief of immigrants under U.S. immigration laws. An immigrant who is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) or who admits to having committed such an act may be:
- Denied a visa or green card;
- Denied U.S. citizenship;
- Deported from the U.S.;
- Barred from reentering the U.S.;
- Detained by immigration authorities;
- Denied certain waivers or forms of relief.
However, not every CIMT will automatically trigger these consequences. There are various exceptions, waivers, and defenses that may apply depending on the circumstances of the case, such as:
- The petty offense exception: This exception applies when the immigrant has only one CIMT conviction, the maximum possible sentence for the offense is one year or less, and the actual sentence imposed is six months or less.
- The youthful offender exception: This applies when the immigrant committed only one CIMT while under 18 years of age, and at least five years have passed since the commission or conviction of the offense.
- The post-conviction relief exception: This exception applies when the immigrant’s CIMT conviction has been vacated, expunged, or otherwise eliminated by a court for reasons of legal invalidity or rehabilitation.
- The 212(h) waiver: This is a discretionary waiver that may be granted by an immigration judge or officer to an immigrant who is inadmissible for a CIMT if certain conditions are met, such as having a qualifying relative who would suffer extreme hardship if the immigrant is removed, showing rehabilitation and good moral character, or demonstrating that the CIMT was committed more than 15 years ago.
- The categorical approach: This is a method of analysis that compares the elements of the state or foreign offense to the generic definition of a CIMT without looking at the specific facts of the case. If the offense does not necessarily involve moral turpitude in every possible scenario, then it is not a CIMT for immigration purposes.
Examples of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
There is no definitive list of crimes that involve moral turpitude, as different jurisdictions may have different definitions and classifications of offenses. However, some general categories of crimes that are commonly considered to involve moral turpitude are:
- Crimes against persons: These are crimes that involve intentional harm or threat of harm to another person, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, battery, kidnapping, robbery, domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual abuse.
- Crimes against property: These are crimes that involve fraud, deceit, or theft of another person’s property, such as burglary, larceny, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, perjury, or bribery.
- Crimes against public order: These are crimes that involve corruption, dishonesty, or interference with public administration or justice, such as obstruction of justice, contempt of court, bribery of a public official, or tax evasion.
However, some crimes that may seem to involve moral turpitude may not be considered as such by immigration authorities or courts. This is dependent on the specific elements and circumstances of the offense.
For example, some offenses that may not be CIMTs are:
- Simple possession of drugs;
- Driving under the influence;
- Disorderly conduct;
What Is Moral Turpitude?
Moral turpitude refers to an act or behavior that is contrary to the moral standards of the community. It is often used in immigration law, criminal law, and professional ethics to determine the admissibility, deportability, eligibility, or suitability of a person for a certain status, benefit, or privilege.
Which Crimes Are Crimes of Moral Turpitude?
Crimes of moral turpitude is a legal concept that refers to conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals. Although there isn’t a definitive list, as the classification can vary by jurisdiction and context, there are several offenses that are often considered to be crimes of moral turpitude. These typically involve dishonesty, fraud, or a breach of trust and can include both misdemeanors and felonies.
Examples of crimes generally considered crimes of moral turpitude include:
- Fraud: This can include various forms of financial dishonesty, such as insurance fraud, securities fraud, and credit card fraud.
- Theft: Involving deceit or breach of trust, like embezzlement or burglary.
- Perjury: Lying under oath is typically considered a crime of moral turpitude due to the inherent dishonesty involved.
- Murder: This is often considered a crime of moral turpitude due to its severe violation of societal norms and values.
- Rape and sexual assault: These crimes are generally considered to involve moral turpitude because they involve a grave violation of another person’s rights.
- Child abuse or neglect: These offenses are typically considered to involve moral turpitude because they involve harm to vulnerable individuals.
- Arson: Deliberately setting fire to property, especially with the intent to cause harm or damage, is often considered a crime of moral turpitude.
Again, whether a specific offense is considered a crime of moral turpitude can depend heavily on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances. For example, some jurisdictions may consider any theft to be a crime of moral turpitude, while others might only classify it as such if the theft involved a certain degree of deceit or a breach of trust.
What Crimes Are Not Categorized as Moral Turpitude Violations?
Crimes not categorized as moral turpitude violations are typically those that don’t involve dishonesty, fraud, or a serious breach of trust. These offenses might still be considered illegal and harmful, but they don’t have the same implication of moral depravity that is characteristic of crimes of moral turpitude.
Examples of crimes that are often not considered crimes of moral turpitude might include:
- Simple Assault: Simple assault typically involves causing or threatening bodily harm to another person, but without the use of a deadly weapon or without intent to kill or cause serious harm. It’s generally not seen as a crime of moral turpitude because it doesn’t involve the same degree of moral depravity or dishonesty. However, more serious forms of assault, like aggravated assault or assault with intent to kill, might be considered crimes of moral turpitude.
- Public Intoxication: Public drunkenness is often against the law, but it’s typically not seen as a crime of moral turpitude. It’s more of a public order offense than a crime involving moral depravity or dishonesty.
- Traffic Violations: Ordinary traffic violations, like speeding or failing to signal, are typically not considered crimes of moral turpitude. However, more serious offenses like vehicular homicide might be.
- Trespassing: Trespassing, or entering another person’s property without permission, is generally not considered a crime of moral turpitude. However, if it’s combined with another offense like burglary, it might be.
- Drug Possession: While drug crimes can be serious, simple possession of drugs for personal use is often not considered a crime of moral turpitude. However, drug trafficking or manufacturing, which involves a higher degree of moral depravity or dishonesty, might be.
Just because a crime isn’t considered a crime of moral turpitude doesn’t mean it won’t have serious legal consequences. Consult with a legal professional for advice based on your specific circumstances.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Yes, you need a deportation lawyer if you have been charged with or convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) or if you have admitted to having committed such an act. A CIMT can have serious consequences for your immigration status and eligibility, such as:
- Making you inadmissible to the U.S. or ineligible for a visa, green card, or citizenship;
- Making you deportable from the U.S. or subject to mandatory detention;
- Making you ineligible for certain waivers or forms of relief from removal;
- Affecting your ability to show good moral character or discretion.
A deportation lawyer can help you by:
- Explaining how your criminal record may affect your immigration status and options;
- Advising you on how to avoid or minimize the immigration consequences of your criminal case;
- Representing you in court or before immigration authorities;
- Applying for any exceptions, waivers, or defenses that may be available to you; and
- Protecting your rights and interests throughout the process.
If you need legal assistance for your CIMT issue, you can search for a qualified deportation lawyer in your area using LegalMatch today.