Moral turpitude refers to a criminal act that is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong.
Being convicted of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) is one of the oldest grounds of inadmissibility and removal from the United States. Although the CIMT concept appeared in American law more than 100 years ago, there is still no clear and unequivocal indication in federal statutes or court cases that specifically and exhaustively defines a CIMT. Moreover, the law on crimes of moral turpitude is constantly evolving and changing.
The CIMT are grouped into three main categories:
- Crimes against property, such as blackmail, arson, robbery, burglary, receipt of stolen property. Most crimes committed against property that involve moral turpitude include the element of fraud. The act of fraud involves moral turpitude whether it is aimed against individuals or government. Fraud generally involves: (1) Making false representation; (2) Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator; (3) Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded; (4) Intent to defraud; and (5) The actual act of committing fraud.
- Crimes committed against governmental authority, such as tax evasion, corruption, fraud against the government.
- Crimes committed against individuals, family and sexual morality, such as statutory rape, murder, second or third degree assault, child abuse or pornography.
Morover, In re Avihail Kochlani, 24 I&N Dec. 128 (BIA 2007), the Board of Immigration Appeals held that "It is true that crimes that have a specific intent to defraud as an element have always been found to involve moral turpitude, but we have also found that certain crimes are inherently fraudulent and involve moral turpitude even though they can be committed without a specific intent to defraud".
The conviction to a CIMT makes an immigrant inadmissible to the United States, and the exceptions to this rule are very limited. One is the "petty offense" exception.
In Castillo-Cruz v. Holder, the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that under 8 U.S.C.A. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II), the bar to admission of an alien convicted for a crime of moral turpitude shall not apply to an alien who has committed only one such crime if:
- the maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted did not exceed imprisonment for one year, and
- if the alien was convicted of such crime, the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of the extent to which the sentence was ultimately executed).
If you were charged with a CIMT, you need to speak immediately with a criminal immigration attorney for a comprehensive analysis of your case.