Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude – Discussing the great Border-Crossing Criminal Law Issue!

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), permits the removal or denial of re-admittance of aliens who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. But what is such a crime? The U.S. government and the judiciary have never explicitly determined what makes a crime one of “moral turpitude”. In fact, whether a crime involves moral turpitude appears to be a highly subjective determination.

The United States Supreme Court has not recognized one definition of the term “moral turpitude” as of the date of this writing. In cases like Demore v. Kim, 538 U.S. 510, 123 S. Ct. 1708 (2003), the Court has noted that definitions of the term vary in vagueness among the Circuit Courts, but provide no guidance on which definition should be used. In Kim, the Supreme Court cites the Fifth Circuit as an example. The Fifth Circuit has defined moral turpitude as “conduct that shocks the public conscious as being inherently base, vile, or depraved” in Omagah v. Ashcroft, 288 F3.d 254, 259 (C.A.5 2002), and also as “anything done contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals” in Guarneri v. Kessler, 98 F.2d 580, 580-581 (C.A.5 1938). Put in plain terms, it appears that a crime of moral turpitude can be defined as any crime that the court finds particularly bad or horrible.

While the exact parameters surrounding a crime of moral turpitude are not clear, we do know what the courts have recognized as such crimes in the past by looking at the substantial amount of case law in this area (there are over 2,000 cases that address the question of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude).

Based on our research, we can identify with some certainty which examined crimes are likely to be found to be crimes of moral turpitude warranting deportability or denial of entry, and which are not. We are compiling a brief table listing some of these crimes, along with the cases that have made that ruling. We will be posting that list very shortly.

This table is intended to be a helpful starting point for research and reference. However, given the vague nature of this subject, and the individual nature of each person’s case, we strongly advise anyone facing cross-border issues to contact the Basiga Law Firm and schedule an individual consultation.

By: Teddy Eisenhut
Basiga Law Firm, PC

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