Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
The term moral turpitude is used multiple times in California criminal law. Generally, people talk about moral turpitude when trying to figure out if a criminal conviction or bad act can be used against you in another court proceeding. It describes conduct that is “inherently base, vile or depraved” or conduct that is “contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society.”
Whether a crime involves moral turpitude depends on what the conduct was and how it is being used in court.
Immigration and Moral Turpitude
Crimes involving moral turpitude may affect your immigration status if you are not a citizen of the United States.
In immigration cases, moral turpitude crimes include murder, rape, sexual misconduct with minors, possession of illegal substances with the intent to sell (PWIT), fraud, among many others.
You may be deported for some crimes involving moral turpitude. This can happen when:
- Within 5 years of being admitted to the U.S., you are convicted of a moral turpitude crime that has a maximum sentence of one year or longer, or
- You are convicted of 2 or more moral turpitude crimes when those crimes did not occur as part of a single criminal scheme.
Crimes involving moral turpitude may also make you inadmissible. This means you are not allowed to apply for permanent status or an adjustment of status, to re-enter the U.S. after leaving, or to become a U.S. Citizen through naturalization.
You can become inadmissible for any conviction or admission of a crime of moral turpitude. The only exception is:
- if you are only convicted of one crime
- having a maximum sentence of less than a year, and
- if you are sentenced to 6 months or less in jail.
Impeachment by moral turpitude conduct
If you are called as a witness in trial, the opposing side can show that the jury should not believe you. One way to do this is by impeachment. You can be impeached if you committed a crime involving moral turpitude, even if you were not convicted.
In this case, moral turpitude means a crime that involves dishonesty, fraud, or antisocial behavior that harms others. It can include crimes like forgery and actions like failing to appear in court after being granted bail.
If you are impeached by a crime involving moral turpitude, the jury can disregard your testimony or parts of your testimony just because of that crime.
Professional licensing consequences
Some crimes involving moral turpitude can keep you from getting a professional license. They can affect your ability to be a nurse or lawyer. They may even affect your job if you are a California state employee.
What are crimes that involve moral turpitude?
Unfortunately, there is no one definition for a crime of moral turpitude. But certain crimes have been found to involve moral turpitude because of their category, like violent crimes. Other crimes can involve moral turpitude because of the way the crime is committed. If you have been accused of one of the following crimes, you may have been charged with a crime of moral turpitude:
- Assault with intent to commit murder,
- Attempted lewd acts on a minor,
- Child abuse,
- Criminal threats,
- Domestic violence against a spouse,
- Failure to register as a sex offender,
- Felon in possession of a firearm,
- Felony hit and run,
- Grand theft auto,
- Possession for sale of controlled substances,
- Receiving stolen property,
- Trespass with the intent to injure or interfere,
- Welfare fraud.
Every case is different. Just because you are charged with a crime involving moral turpitude does not mean that you will be convicted of that crime. Often we work with clients and prosecutors to negotiate a plea for a different crime, one that does not involve moral turpitude. That's why it's important to speak to an experienced California criminal defense attorney before you consider admitting to or pleading guilty to any crime. A conviction may have lasting consequences on your ability to hold a job, travel, or remain in the country.
Make sure you're informed. Call California criminal defense attorney William S. Kroger today.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, reach out to the Kroger Law Group for help. We are available to answer your questions and make sure you have the best defense possible for your California moral turpitude crime. Call us at 323-655-5700 or message us now to set up a free, confidential consultation.