||This article may be weighted too heavily toward only one aspect of its subject. (July 2011)|
|Look up moral turpitude in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to "an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community". This term appears in U.S. immigration law beginning in the 19th century.
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."
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. Second, offenses involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as teaching credentials, licenses to practice law, or other licensed profession. Third, this concept is of great importance for immigration purposes in the United States, Canada (prior to 1976), and some other countries, since offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the U.S.
American immigration law
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.
Visa Waiver Program
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:
Travelers who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records, (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed on the VWP are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.
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
A definition of moral turpitude is available for immigration purposes on the United States Department of State website. and the government publishing office website(8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(i)).
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.
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 of behaviors, some of which may not necessarily involve moral turpitude under the Federal definition. For an 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).
|Category||Crimes involving moral turpitude||Crimes not involving moral turpitude|
|Crimes Against Property||Fraud:
|Crimes Committed Against Governmental Authority||
|Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality||
|Attempts, Aiding and Abetting, Accessories and Conspiracy||
|From the United States Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual|
- "Law Dictionary: moral turpitude". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That? US immigration and visa lawyers in London
- 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)
- People v. Wheeler, 4 Cal.4th 284, 295-296, 841 P.2d 938, 14 Cal.Rptr.2d 418
- Ballard v. Independent School Dist., 320 F.3d 1119 (10th Cir. 2003)
- Chadwick v. State Bar, 49 Cal.3d 103, 776 P.2d 240, 260 Cal.Rptr. 538 (1989)
- 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A) ; 8 CFR 316.10
- Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws Section 212(a) and 217 of the INA
- 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.
- § N.7 Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
- Lauren Durr Emery "Failure to Register as a Sex Offender is Not a Crime of Moral Turpitude" The Wake Forest Law Review