Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

All crimes have consequences. In most cases, a conviction will result in supervised release, fines, and/or incarceration. There are certain offenses, though, that are considered to be particularly troublesome. These crimes, known as crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), typically involve behaviors that are fraudulent, deceitful, or harmful to others.

Crimes involving moral turpitude carry additional consequences that can be quite devastating. In addition to typical criminal penalties, you can also face consequences involving immigration, employment, and your reputation.

What Are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (Crimes of Moral Turpitude)?

A crime involving moral turpitude is not a specific offense. Instead, it’s a classification that can be assigned to a crime.

There is no black and white definition for what a crime involving moral turpitude is. Instead, whether or not a crime should be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude is an issue that’s been left up for debate.

Courts have been tasked with:

(a) providing a very basic definition, and

(b) determining which crimes warrant classification as a crime involving moral turpitude.

Moral Turpitude Meaning

Courts have acknowledged that there’s no “consistent or easily applied set of criteria” that can be used to identify crimes involving moral turpitude.

Rather, courts have explained that crimes involving moral turpitude involve either:

  • Fraud, or
  • Base, vile, and depraved conduct that shocks the conscience.

If a crime isn’t fraudulent in nature it must “almost always involve an intent to harm someone, the actual infliction of harm upon someone, or an action that affects a protected class of victim.”

Whether or not a specific crime satisfies this criterion is a question for the courts to decide. Since there are no real hard-and-fast criteria, courts typically compare a crime with others that have been classified as crimes of moral turpitude. Similar crimes may also be classified as such.

Which Crimes are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Many crimes can be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude. Each classification will be done on a case-by-case basis. This means that a crime that’s classified as a crime involving moral turpitude in one case may not be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude in another case. If there is a debate, the determination will ultimately hinge on the defendant’s state of mind and intent. Acts that are done recklessly or with evil intent will generally warrant classification as a crime involving moral turpitude.

Crimes that are have been classified as crimes involving moral turpitude include:

Are Any Crimes Not Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Not all crimes are classified as crimes involving moral turpitude. There have been many times when courts have determined that particular crimes do not rise to the level of depravity or evilness that’s inherent in a crime involving moral turpitude. These crimes typically won’t be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude unless the offense involves certain aggravating factors.

Courts have determined the following crimes, when aggravating factors are not present, should generally not be classified as crimes involving moral turpitude:

Assault is typically not a crime involving moral turpitude unless it is committed (a) with the intent to inflict serious harm or (b) against a protected class of victim.

What Are the Consequences For a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?

When you’re convicted of a crime you’ll be vulnerable to any of the criminal penalties that may apply. If that crime is also classified as a crime involving moral turpitude, you can face additional consequences that aren’t necessarily criminal in nature. There are three primary consequences for a crime involving moral turpitude:

  • Immigration
  • Professional, and
  • Credibility.

Immigration Consequences for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

Crimes involving moral turpitude can be particularly problematic if you’re not a citizen of the United States. As a non-citizen, a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can affect your immigration status and ability to acquire or maintain a green card or visa. You may be classified as deportable or inadmissible.

Deportable: This means that you can be asked to leave and/or forcibly removed from the country, regardless of your immigration status. The length of time you’ve spent in the United States will also be irrelevant. Your immigration status can only be changed to deportable if:

  • You’re convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude on separate occasions; or
  • You’re convicted of a felony crime involving moral turpitude within 5 years of entering the country legally.

Inadmissible: This means that you may be prohibited from entering the country legally. You may not be able to apply for a green card, become a naturalized citizen, or petition to become a legally-recognized immigrant. If you leave the country you may not be allowed to return.

Your immigration status can only be changed to inadmissible if you’re convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or admit to a crime involving moral turpitude. However, your immigration status may not change if your conviction is for a “petty offense.” This will be a crime that’s not punishable by more than 1 year. You must also not be sentenced to more 6 months behind bars.

Immigration consequences can be disastrous for you and your family.

Professional Consequences for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can also affect any professional licenses you may hold. Certain jobs require that you receive and maintain a professional license. Educators, attorneys, and doctors are a few examples of professionals who could face adverse consequences if they are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

Many professional boards will suspend or revoke these professional licenses if a practitioner is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. This can prevent you from bringing in the money you need to get by and unnecessarily complicate your life.

You may also face adverse consequences if you’re a California state employee. The government reserves the right to implement internal disciplinary measures or even suspend or terminate your employment if you’re convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude.

Credibility Consequences for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can limit your effectiveness as a reliable witness. When you are called to testify as a witness in a legal proceeding you will face a great deal of scrutiny.

When you have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, opposing counsel can use this to impeach your credibility as a witness. This essentially means that they can use your prior crime to undermine what you say in a legal proceeding.

I’ve Been Arrested for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude. What Should I Do?

Again, a crime involving moral turpitude is not a specific offense. It’s a classification that can be applied to certain crimes. It’s important to speak with an attorney if you’ve been arrested for a crime that could be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude. Early intervention in your case could go a long way in protecting your future.

Here’s how an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help with your case:

Dismissal

Your attorney will intervene in your criminal case and review the charges and evidence against you. If the state’s case is weak or if evidence has been obtained illegally, your lawyer will file a motion to dismiss the charges. An aggressive approach like this can be very successful. You won’t face the penalties for a crime involving moral turpitude if the case is thrown out.

Reduction in Criminal Charges

Courts will not dismiss criminal charges if there is some evidence to support the state’s case against you. Your attorney can approach the prosecution to discuss a reduction in the criminal charges. This reduction would ideally be to a crime that would not be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude. So, while you may face criminal charges, you would not face the consequences associated with a crime involving moral turpitude.

For example, let’s say that Alex is arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter, a crime that can be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude. Your attorney points out the weaknesses in the state’s case and asks for the charges to be reduced to involuntary manslaughter. In most situations, involuntary manslaughter will not be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude.

Assert a Strong Defense

The state may be reluctant to negotiate the criminal charges in your case. If this happens, you’ll need to make sure that you are prepared to assert a very strong and persuasive defense. You’ll only be vulnerable to the consequences for a crime involving moral turpitude if you’re convicted. The state can only get a conviction if it proves that you’re guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A strong defense can prevent the state from satisfying this high burden of proof.

Petition for Post-Conviction Relief

You’re not necessarily out of options just because you’ve been convicted of a crime. You may have the right to petition a court for post-conviction relief. Post-conviction relief can include re-sentencing or reducing a misdemeanor to a felony. A court may also vacate your conviction if you had ineffective counsel or weren’t aware of the potential immigration consequences.

Getting post-conviction relief can help to protect you from some of the immigration consequences for a crime involving moral turpitude. However, post-conviction relief does not always guarantee that your conviction won’t be used for immigration purposes.

Call For Help Today

Are you facing criminal charges in Los Angeles? Could the charges against you be classified as a crime involving moral turpitude? If so, a conviction could have very harsh consequences for you and your family. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer will help you secure the very best result in your case.

At The Rodriguez Law Group, our lawyers have been handling these delicate criminal matters for more than two decades. We understand that your future is on the line and we’re here to help you protect it. Call our office to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case, explain the possible consequences of a conviction, and answer any questions you have.