Dena Standley | November 15, 2022
Summary: Moral turpitude is a legal term used to describe a crime that exhibits shocking behavior that is immoral, unethical, or unjust. If you have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, your life will be significantly affected. You can try to take advantage of post-conviction relief, request a charge reduction, or file a motion to dismiss to lighten the gravity of your sentence.
American courts broadly define moral turpitude as behavior that shocks the public's conscience. They deem it an act of base, vile, or depraved behavior that contravenes morality and rights owed to fellow men.
A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) depends mainly on whether there is any willful conduct involved in the offense. Moreover, it's a morally reprehensible and intrinsic offense characterized by recklessness, evil, or malice. But, one must prove that the perpetrator knew before committing the act that it was distasteful.
The consequences of a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can affect your career, reputation, and immigration status for non-citizens. Because as long as it is appropriate, CIMT can apply to any crime. Find out what types of crimes are considered CIMTs and how to respond to a CIMT.
Remember, this is a partial list of crimes associated with moral turpitude. Judges or juries will frequently consider the state of mind at the time of the crime if there is confusion over whether to use the "crime of moral turpitude" term. Examples include:
Below, we explore an example of a crime that was almost considered moral turpitude:
Example: Kim was receiving welfare assistance for herself and her two children while she went to college to help build a better life for them. However, she met a man who made a substantial income. Kim and her children eventually moved in with him, and he provided for their financial needs. However, Kim chose not to report her change in circumstances and continued receiving her welfare benefits. Meanwhile, one of the children went to live with their paternal grandmother, and Kim kept the welfare benefits intended for that child's basic needs. She is charged with welfare fraud and moral turpitude. While what she did was wrong, Kim saved the money she received in benefits for herself and her children to avoid being in another vulnerable position. Once the criminal investigation was complete and charges were filed, the judge decided to drop the “crime of moral turpitude” though the criminal charges remained. Why? Because Kim saving the money in an attempt to avoid vulnerability for herself and her children showed that, though she had committed a crime, it did not rise to the level of moral turpitude.
Moral turpitude reflects on your integrity and truthfulness, and conviction for such an offense can have severe consequences for your:
If your work requires a professional license, a conviction for moral turpitude could jeopardize it. In most cases, moral turpitude crimes result in license suspension or revocation by professional boards. In Kentucky, for example, such convictions result in the immediate termination of employees.
You will have your credibility questioned by the opposing attorney if you are ever called as a witness in a court case.
It can be challenging to acquire immigration status following a crime of moral turpitude. Besides, crimes of moral turpitude can be grounds for deportation under the Immigration Act of 1917. Consequently, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 restricts entry into the country if convicted of such crimes.
But a host of factors determine whether a person is deported or denied admission, including:
The tricky part about moral turpitude is that it is not a crime but a category to label it. Therefore, any crime can be considered moral turpitude by the Board of Immigration Appeals (B.I.A.).
Since moral turpitude crimes are determined on a case-by-case basis, speaking with a lawyer early on can help you. Depending on the circumstances, a lawyer can assist you in determining if the conviction is an act of moral turpitude.
There are several post-conviction reliefs; re-sentencing or a change of status according to the severity of the crime. Moreover, ineffective counsel may qualify you for post-conviction relief in some cases. Despite conviction charges and immigration consequences, you may be able to receive some legal relief as well.
The state cannot dismiss your charges if it presents supporting evidence against you. But one option is to request a reduction in criminal charges. The criminal charges from the crime may still apply, but you won't face the severe consequences of a moral turpitude definition.
Only a criminal conviction involving moral turpitude could compromise your immigration status, professional credibility, and social standing. It can only occur if you are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that if there is doubt in your case, you can counter the allegations with a strong defense.
For example, the evidence against you may be illegal, or there may be a weak argument against you. You can file a motion for dismissal if this is the case. No case means no conviction and no moral turpitude crime classification.
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