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What Are Crimes of Moral Turpitude?

What Are Crimes of Moral Turpitude?

What Does Crime of Moral Turpitude Mean?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) a conviction for a “crime of moral turpitude” (often called “crime involving moral turpitude” or CIMT) can prevent an individual from successfully applying for a visa or green card, or can cause an individual who already has a visa or green card to be removed from the country. This type of criminal conviction also can cause an individual to be unable to show the “good moral character” that is necessary to successfully becoming a U.S. citizen.

Defining a crime of moral turpitude is not as straightforward as it might seem. For example, neither the severity of the crime nor the length of the sentence in terms of the U.S. criminal justice system affects whether an offense is a crime of moral turpitude. Essentially, any criminal offense can qualify as a crime of moral turpitude, depending on the circumstances. The highly subjective nature of “moral turpitude” makes it difficult to determine exactly which crimes qualify an individual for removal on this basis. There is no specific definition in the INA as to what crimes specifically qualify as a crime of moral turpitude, however, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has generally defined crimes of moral turpitude as those in which the individual recklessly or intentionally commits a crime that shocks the public conscience. In determining what constitutes a crime of moral turpitude, immigration courts and officials must look to the language of the criminal statute under which the individual was convicted.

Examples of Moral Turpitude

Some examples of crimes that officials historically have considered to be crimes of moral turpitude include the following:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Child abuse
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Theft

The definitions of these crimes differ widely depending on the law of the state involved, so what may constitute a crime of moral turpitude under one state’s laws may not necessarily be so under another state’s laws, even if the crimes are relatively comparable.

Common Elements Involving Crime of Moral Turpitude

The most common elements of a crime of moral turpitude are fraud, larceny, and intent to harm a person or property. If a crime involves dishonesty, theft, or a clear threat of harm to another person, it is likely to be a crime of moral turpitude. Most crimes of moral turpitude are designed to harm property, another person, or a governmental entity. Whatever type of crime is involved, the conduct must be reckless or intentional in nature in order to qualify as a crime of moral turpitude.

Call (510) 756-4468 For A Free Case Evaluation at Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C.

At Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C., our Oakland immigration lawyers are dedicated to protecting your rights to enter and/or remain in the U.S., no matter what type of criminal charges you are facing. Whether you are potentially deportable due to a visa overstay or a lack of valid immigration status, we can help. We know how to evaluate your case, explore your options, and provide you with the strongest defense against removal possible. Contact our deportation defense attorneys today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.


Contact Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. online or call (510) 756-4468 to schedule a free evaluation with one of our immigration lawyers in Oakland. We are ready to answer your questions.

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