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A Look at “Moral Turpitude”

hands-of-man-in-jail-behind-bar-in-handcuffsAny person hoping to obtain or keep a “green card,” or lawful permanent residence, in the United States should be concerned with “moral turpitude.” What is important to understand about moral turpitude is that it is not an actual criminal statute. It is a type of catch-all description that can apply to a variety of crimes if it is deemed appropriate.

Moral turpitude is defined by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) as a concept that “refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” The person committing such a crime should have done so while acting recklessly or with “evil intent.”

Because this wording is so subjective, an immigration judge or official does not only need to look at the statute of the crime an immigrant has been convicted of. Instead, they are also permitted to look at the facts surrounding the crime and ultimate conviction. Prior to 2015, immigration officials were permitted to consider an entire criminal record. Since 2015, immigration officials are only allowed to consider is the current conviction.

Crimes of moral turpitude include:

  • Murder
  • Some cases of involuntary manslaughter
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Spousal abuse (domestic violence)
  • Child abuse
  • Kidnaping
  • Incest
  • Robbery
  • Mayhem
  • Aggravated assault
  • Animal fighting
  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to any of these crimes

When a person is considered to have committed a crime of moral turpitude, their immigration status is in jeopardy. If a person is already in possession of a green card, that card may not be renewed. If a person is applying for a green card, the application may be denied.

If you have been charged with a crime of moral turpitude in California, you need a strong defense team. It is important that you contact an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense law. Call our office today to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. We will advise you of your options and help you make the best choices for your unique situation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.