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When is a criminal offense a crime of moral turpitude?

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Some types of criminal offenses have immigration consequences. Violent offenses like murder will often lead to someone facing removal from the United States. The same is true of crimes that lead to long-term incarceration. 

However, some people accused of seemingly minor, non-violent offenses may also end up at risk of removal from the United States after a guilty plea or conviction. A crime of moral turpitude would also justify someone’s removal from the United States. 

What makes a criminal offense a crime of moral turpitude? 

It is offensive to moral sensibility

Someone repeatedly forgetting to pay their traffic tickets or taking a newspaper from their neighbor’s front porch likely won’t constitute a crime of moral turpitude. However, behaviors that the average person would find reprehensible and that go against community values may be crimes of moral turpitude.

Some state statutes specifically mention that a crime is morally reprehensible. Other times, it will be the clear criminal intent of the defendant that makes an offense a crime of moral turpitude. Violent behavior and the presence of a deadly weapon can lead to the classification of an offense as a crime of moral turpitude.  

Offenses against children and crimes that cause long-term harm to vulnerable individuals are among the many offenses that may constitute crimes of moral turpitude for the purpose of immigration matters. The more serious the offense is, the more likely it is to trigger questions about someone’s immigration status. 

Recognizing when a criminal offense could affect someone’s eligibility to remain in the United States may help people more reasonably respond to the charges they face in criminal court before the matter affects their immigration status.