Moral turpitude

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Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals."[1] This term appears in U.S. immigration law beginning in the 19th century.[2]

The concept of "moral turpitude" might escape precise definition, but it has been described as an "act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."[3]

The classification of a crime or other conduct as constituting moral turpitude has significance in several areas of law. First, prior conviction of a crime of moral turpitude (or in some jurisdictions, "moral turpitude conduct", even without a conviction) is considered to have a bearing on the honesty of a witness and might be used for purposes of the impeachment of witnesses.[4] Second, offenses involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as teaching credentials,[5] licenses to practice law,[6] or other licensed profession. Third, this concept is of great importance for immigration purposes in the United States, Canada, and some other countries, since offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the U.S.[7]

American immigration law[edit]

A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) causes a person to be inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2)(a)(i) of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). There are petty offense exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions do not change the meaning of the question on the Visa Waiver Program or on the visa application form, and cannot be self-certified. A controlled substance violation causes the alien to be inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2)(i)(II) of the INA. They are two different sections of the law. A controlled substance violation is a CIMT. The immigration administrative proceeding does not use a controlled substance violation as a CIMT. A visa waiver program applicant admissibility is determined at the port of entry and they are subject to section 212(a) and 217 of the INA.[citation needed]

Visa Waiver Program[edit]

The second question on document I-94W for those visiting the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program asks:

Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or been controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?

Little guidance is provided to the traveler as to which offenses are included in the definition; however the Web site of the U.S. embassy in London states that a visa is required for anyone who has ever been arrested or convicted for any offense.[8] This appears to be at variance with the question on form I-94W and information supplied by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as there are many offenses that are not considered to involve moral turpitude.

U.S. government guidance on determining moral turpitude[edit]

A definition of moral turpitude is available for immigration purposes on the United States Department of State website.[9]

For offenses (or arrests on suspicion of such offenses) occurring outside the U.S., the locally defined offense must be considered against the U.S. definitions, and in such cases it is the definition of the offense (as defined in the appropriate country) which is considered for immigration purposes, and not the circumstances of the individual's actual case.[citation needed]

Whether a state law offense constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude for federal immigration purposes is decided on a statute by statute basis, because each state statute might cover a different range behaviors, some of which may not necessarily involve moral turpitude under the Federal definition. For a good example of a criminal statute that seems like it would categorically involve moral turpitude, but actually does not because the statute covers some behavior that does not involve moral turpitude, see the Ninth Circuit case Castrijon-Garcia v. Holder, No. 09-73756 (9th Cir. 2013) (simple kidnapping under California Penal Code § 207(a) is not a categorical crime involving moral turpitude).[10]

Category Crimes involving moral turpitude Crimes not involving moral turpitude
Crimes Against Property Fraud:
  • Making false representation
  • Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator
  • Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded
  • An intent to defraud
  • The actual act of committing fraud

Evil intent:

  • Damaging private property (where intent to damage not required)
  • Breaking and entering (requiring no specific or implicit intent to commit a crime involving moral turpitude)
  • Passing bad checks (where intent to defraud not required)
  • Possessing stolen property (if guilty knowledge is not essential)
  • Joy riding (where the intention to take permanently not required)
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Trespassing
Crimes Committed Against Governmental Authority
Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality
  • Abandonment of a minor child (if willful and resulting in the destitution of the child)
  • Adultery (see INA 101** repealed by Public Law 97-116)
  • Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude):
    • Assault with intent to kill, commit rape, commit robbery or commit serious bodily harm
    • Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Bigamy
  • Paternity fraud
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Gross indecency
  • Incest (if the result of an improper sexual relationship)
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewdness
  • Manslaughter:
    • Voluntary
    • Involuntary (where the statute requires proof of recklessness, which is defined as the awareness and conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk which constitutes a gross deviation from the standard that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A conviction for the statutory offense of vehicular homicide or other involuntary manslaughter requires only a showing of negligence will not involve moral turpitude even if it appears the defendant in fact acted recklessly)
  • Mayhem
  • Murder
  • Pandering
  • Prostitution
  • Rape (including "Statutory rape" by virtue of the victim's age)
  • Assault (simple) (any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly)
  • Bastardy (the offense of begetting a bastard child)
  • Creating or maintaining a nuisance (where knowledge that premises were used for prostitution is not necessary)
  • Incest (when a result of a marital status prohibited by law)
  • Involuntary manslaughter (when killing is not the result of recklessness)
  • Libel
  • Mailing an obscene letter
  • Mann Act violations (where coercion is not present)
  • Riot
  • Suicide (attempted)
Attempts, Aiding and Abetting, Accessories and Conspiracy
  • An attempt to commit a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Being an accessory (before or after the fact) in the commission of a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Taking part in a conspiracy (or attempting to take part in a conspiracy) to commit a crime involving moral turpitude where the attempted crime would not itself constitute moral turpitude.

N/A

From the United States Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Moral Turpitude: West's Encyclopedia of American Law Answers.com
  2. ^ A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That? US immigration and visa lawyers in London
  3. ^ Chadwick v. State Bar, 49 Cal. 3d 103, 110, 776 P.2d 240, 260 Cal.Rptr. 538 (1989); Sosa-Martinez v. United States AG, 420 F.3d 1338, 1341 (11th Cir. 2005)
  4. ^ People v. Wheeler, 4 Cal.4th 284, 295-296, 841 P.2d 938, 14 Cal.Rptr.2d 418
  5. ^ Ballard v. Independent School Dist., 320 F.3d 1119 (10th Cir. 2003)
  6. ^ Chadwick v. State Bar, 49 Cal.3d 103, 776 P.2d 240, 260 Cal.Rptr. 538 (1989)
  7. ^ 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A); 8 CFR 316.10
  8. ^ "Visa Waiver Program: Additional Requirements". Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  9. ^ a b United States Department of State. "U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 - Visas: 9 FAM 40.21(A) N2 Moral turpitude" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  10. ^ http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/01/09/09-73756.pdf