Available 24/7 Free Consultation

What Is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Request Your Free Consultation
What Is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

First, What is Moral Turpitude in General?

There is no statutory definition of crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs). Instead, the legal community has relied on case law and court decisions to characterize and create a moral turpitude meaning. So, generally, what is moral turpitude?

  • According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, moral turpitude is “a quality of dishonesty or other immorality that is determined by a court to be present in the commission of a criminal offense.”
  • In the legal arena, a crime of moral turpitude is an offense that shocks the conscience of the community because it is so depraved and unethical.

Various acts can fall into this classification, including misdemeanors and felonies. Interestingly, although the phrase “crimes involving moral turpitude” is not clearly defined, a conviction for such an offense can have significant consequences, especially for non-U.S. citizens and business professionals.

For example, if a foreigner is found guilty of or admits to having committed moral turpitude crimes, they may not be allowed to enter the country, or they could be removed from the U.S. Criminal defense attorneys representing clients charged with a crime of moral turpitude must explore and understand all potential legal options to help avoid the potentially devastating impacts of a conviction.

If you need legal counsel in Cleveland, schedule a consultation with Patituce & Associates by calling (440) 471-7784 or submitting an online contact form today.

What Actions Are Considered Crimes of Moral Turpitude?

What Is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?

A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) carries the potential for more than a prison term and/or fines. A conviction of a CIMT can negatively affect your life, including your professional reputation, immigration status, and any situation that involves social credibility. Because of the serious nature of these crimes, it is crucial that you understand the accusations you are facing and the possible outcomes.

Since the definition of this important term can’t be found in any state or federal statutes, different states may apply different definitions to these crimes. Numerous courts have issued rulings that interpret moral turpitude crimes as actions that:

  • are done with evil or vicious intent
  • violate public society’s rules and standards
  • are often seen as disgusting, reprehensible, shocking, wicked, immoral, vile, or depraved

Typically, an offense rises to the level of a CIMT if the alleged offender acted with reckless or malicious intent. In other words, on some level, the Defendant knew that what they were doing was morally unacceptable, yet they continued acting.

CIMTs are usually crimes that result in great bodily harm, involve defrauding others, or deprive owners of their property. They are actually a category that labels a crime but does not define the crime itself. The underlying crime can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, but the offense will not be labeled as a CIMT at the time of charging.

Common Examples of Moral Turpitude Crimes Include the Following:

What Are the Effects of a Crime of Moral Turpitude Conviction on a Non-US Citizen?

As with any other crime, a CIMT conviction can lead to incarceration, fines, and other criminal sanctions. It can also result in severe consequences for non-U.S. citizens, professionals whose job requires a certification or license, and others who must protect their public reputation.

A CIMT Conviction Can Affect Immigration Status

A guilty verdict or plea can cause a person to be deemed inadmissible or removable from the U.S., as these crimes demonstrate a lack of good moral character. Permanent residents, F-1 students, non-residents with lawful status, and undocumented individuals could lose their status or be ineligible to apply for residency or adjustments of status.

Deportability Because of a CIMT Conviction

A non-citizen may be subject to removal proceedings because of a CIMT conviction in two ways:

  • They are convicted of two or more CIMTs: The conviction must have happened any time after the individual was admitted to the U.S. However, two exceptions exist: the crime was purely political, or the individual received multiple charges for a single act.
  • They are convicted of one CIMT within 5 years of being admitted to the U.S. The offense must have a maximum potential sentence of 1 year or more.

Inadmissibility Into the Country Because of a CIMT

A non-U.S. citizen is considered inadmissible if they are convicted of just one crime of moral turpitude at any time before or after they seek admission to the U.S.

Two exceptions exist:

  • Petty offense exception: The individual has been convicted of only one CIMT in their life. The crime they were convicted of carried a maximum sentence of 1 year, but the defendant received a sentence of 6 months or less.
  • Youthful offender exception: The defendant was a non-citizen under 18 years of age at the time of the offense. They have only committed one CIMT, and it’s been at least 5 years since they were convicted or released from prison.

How Being Convicted of a Crime of Moral Turpitude Can Impact Professional Licensing and Employment

Professionals who must hold a state or federal license to maintain employment can face the suspension or revocation of their license if they are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude crimes can impact people such as doctors, lawyers, educators, law enforcement, and other types of jobs that demand a high level of ethics and moral standing.

When a professional board suspends or revokes a professional license, it can lead to loss of employment, a negative impact on professional credibility, and ongoing financial complications.

Moral Turpitude Crimes Can Even Affect Your Social Credibility

Simply being charged with a crime of moral turpitude can damage your public reputation. A CIMT conviction can limit your ability to do certain things that require an assumption of morality and ethics. For example, you may not be able to testify in a court of law without your prior conviction being exposed. If you have political aspirations, you may find it challenging to run for public office. Certain job opportunities that do not require a license may still reject your application if they learn about your CIMT conviction. Your personal, family, and social relationships can also be damaged or destroyed.

If You are Charged With a Crime of Moral Turpitude, Trust the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Patituce & Associates to Help

Moral turpitude crimes can have substantial ramifications for non-U.S. citizens and others. If you are charged with a crime of moral turpitude, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can examine all available legal avenues to work toward avoiding a conviction. A skilled criminal defense attorney can build a strong case and fight to cast doubt in the minds of a judge or jury, or they can negotiate a deal that may allow you to plead to a lesser crime that isn’t considered a CIMT.

At Patituce & Associates, our Cleveland attorneys are well-versed in criminal law and leave no stone unturned as we fight for our clients. Discuss your case by contacting us at (440) 471-7784.