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Crimes of Moral Turpitude in Removal or Deportation Hearings

Crimes of Moral Turpitude The term "moral turpitude" means an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties owing to one’s fellow man or society in general, contrary to accepted and customary rules, and is dependent upon depraved or vicious motives on the part of the alien. Since neither the INA nor its legislative history provides a definition of a crime of moral turpitude, a Court of Appeals will defer to the long-established BIA definition that it includes a crime committed recklessly and with a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk to the life and safety of others. Whether a crime involves moral turpitude is determined by the inherent nature of the crime as defined, rather than the circumstances surrounding the particular transgression. The essential question then in determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude is whether the proscribed act, as defined by the law of the appropriate jurisdiction in which the act was committed, includes elements which necessarily demonstrate the baseness, vileness, and depravity of the perpetrator.To determine whether a criminal conviction amounts to a crime involving moral turpitude, it is the statute that defines the crime, rather than the act committed, which is controlling. If moral turpitude necessarily inheres in the crime defined by the statute under which the conviction occurred, the conviction is for a crime involving moral turpitude. Thus, it is in the intent that moral turpitude inheres, and a crime committed without contemplating death, without malice, and without intent, and ordinarily committed while engaged in a lawful act, but committed through carelessness or lack of caution or circumspection, does not include an evil intent and does not involve moral turpitude. However, a criminal statute need not require "evil intent" for it to be considered a crime involving moral turpitude; rather, the statute need only require an act of such debased or depraved behavior that it violates accepted moral standards. Conversely, not every conviction based on a criminal statute requiring "evil intent" is for a crime involving moral turpitude. Where reckless conduct is an element of a statute, a crime of assault may be, but is not per se, a crime involving moral turpitude; however, where the offense is similar to a simple assault, it is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Only if the statute under which the alien was convicted includes some offenses which involve moral turpitude and others which do not, will the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) look to the record of conviction, which includes the indictment, the plea, the verdict, and the sentence, to determine the offense for which the alien was convicted. In the case of many lesser crimes, the question of moral turpitude is not determined by the name of the crime, but rather by the nature of the crime as defined in the pertinent statute and alleged in the indictment. In determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude, neither the immigration authorities nor the courts may go beyond the record of conviction to examine the circumstances under which the crime was committed, but, rather, the determination must be made Moral turpitude must be inherent in the charge and thus must be evidenced by the record itself; the question then is whether the inherent nature of the crime as defined by law and particularized in the indictment necessarily involves moral turpitude In general, a crime in which fraud is an ingredient involves moral turpitude, and fraudulent intent may either be explicit in the statutory definition of the crime or implicit in the nature of the crime.Similarly, sexual crimes are considered to involve m on the basis of the statutory definition of the crime and the record of conviction. The indictment, plea, verdict, and sentencing, but not extrinsic evidence, may be properly considered in determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude. In doing so, the court may look to the allegations of the indictment pertinent to the crime to which a plea of guilty was entered to determine whether such allegations state a crime involving moral turpitude.

Although when by definition a crime does not necessarily involve moral turpitude, an alien cannot be deported because in the particular instances conduct was immoral, when a crime does necessarily involve moral turpitude, no evidence is competent that the alien was in fact blameless. Where the underlying, substantive offense is a crime involving moral turpitude, conspiracy to commit such an offense is also a crime involving moral turpitude.Conversely, conspiracy to commit an offense is not a crime involving moral turpitude where the substantive offense does not involve moral turpitude. Similarly, conviction under state law of being an accessory before the fact constitutes a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude where the substantive offense involves moral turpitude.

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