Crimes of Moral Turpitude: What Does This Mean in Your Case?

You might have heard of crimes of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is a term that describes behavior that departs from the ordinary social standards of a society. It describes criminal charges that involve unethical, dishonest, immoral, deviant, or wicked behavior.

Being charged with a crime of moral turpitude is a serious matter. Criminal convictions for crimes of moral turpitude have several collateral consequences in addition to the criminal penalties for the underlying criminal offense.

If you are arrested for a crime of moral turpitude or any other criminal offense, it is in your best interest to remain silent. Talking to the police officers or the prosecutor without a criminal defense attorney could hurt your chance of beating the criminal charges.

What Are Crimes of Moral Turpitude in San Diego?

There are no statutes in California that define moral turpitude. However, many crimes have been found to offend society in general and the ethical standard in the United States to the point that they are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

In general, a crime of moral turpitude shocks the conscience because the crime is inherently depraved, base, vile, and evil. The conduct shocks the public conscience as morally reprehensible. The person committing the crime is perceived as lacking good moral character.

Examples of crimes of moral turpitude include:

Most moral turpitude crimes involve a willful intent to harm or default someone. These crimes often involve violence toward others, but not always. Crimes of moral turpitude generally do not involve criminal offenses because of bad judgment, mistakes, or accidents.

How Does the Designation of Moral Turpitude Impact Your Criminal Case?

Judges may view crimes of moral turpitude as so vile that they sentence offenders to the higher end of the maximum sentence for the crime. However, viewing a crime as depraved or vile does not require a judge to add to the defendant’s sentence.

The classification of a criminal offense as a moral turpitude crime can affect:

  • Your professional license
  • Your immigration status
  • Your testimony as a witness

If you are charged with a crime of moral turpitude, you need to understand the potential criminal penalties for a conviction. You also need to understand how a conviction of a moral turpitude crime could impact these other areas.

Moral Turpitude Crimes Can Impact Professional Licenses

Many careers require individuals to obtain a professional license. Examples of professionals in California that need a license include, but are not limited to:

  • Attorneys
  • Physicians
  • Contractors
  • Social workers
  • Police officers
  • Teachers
  • Real estate brokers
  • Accountants
  • Dentists
  • Nurses

If you are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, you could lose your professional license. Losing your professional license results in job loss because you cannot provide services without a license. 

For example, a doctor convicted of a moral turpitude crime may be disciplined by the Medical Board of California

Depending on the crime and rules for licensing and discipline, the doctor could lose his license, be suspended from the practice of medicine, or receive other disciplinary action. Likewise, a lawyer convicted of a crime of moral turpitude could face disbarment or suspension from practicing law for a specific period by the State Bar Association.

The type of professional license and the rules set by the governing body dictate how a conviction of a moral turpitude crime impacts the person’s professional license. 

As with a person’s immigration status, you should fight criminal charges to protect your professional license. There could be one or more criminal defenses to the criminal charges resulting in an acquittal or a dismissal of charges. Your criminal lawyer might be able to negotiate a plea bargain that reduces the criminal charge to an offense that does not qualify as a moral turpitude crime.

A Conviction of a Crime of Moral Turpitude Can Get You Deported

Being convicted of a moral turpitude crime has negative consequences on your immigration status. United States immigration laws define crimes that result in deportation if you are convicted of the offense. Therefore, convictions for these criminal offenses can prevent you from entering the United States.

The deportable and inadmissible criminal offenses include crimes of moral turpitude. You can be deported because of a moral turpitude crime if:

  • You are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude;
  • Within five years after entering the United States; AND,
  • The crime may be punishable by a jail or prison sentence of one year or longer.

You may also be deported for a moral turpitude crime if you are convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude that do not arise from the same criminal misconduct or single criminal scheme. 

There is no time period for this category. If you are convicted of a second crime of moral turpitude at any time, you can be deported.

When a person is inadmissible, the person cannot apply for an adjustment of status, naturalize for citizenship, permanent resident status, or re-enter the country after leaving.

There could be an exception for a petty offense that does not result in more than one year of incarceration. Talk with a criminal defense lawyer immediately if you are charged with a criminal offense as a non-citizen. 

Your Credibility as a Witness Can Be Impeached 

As a witness, your credibility is essential. You need the jury to believe what you say on the witness stand. 

However, being convicted of a felony designated as a moral turpitude crime can be admitted at trial to impeach your testimony. In addition, misdemeanor moral turpitude crimes can also be admitted to impeach witness testimony. 

If you have a stake in the trial’s outcome, impeaching your testimony can have significant consequences. At the very least, having your past criminal conduct detailed in court can be embarrassing.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being arrested for crimes involving moral turpitude is not a conviction for a crime. However, you have the right to legal counsel and the right to present a defense to the charges. Call our law firm today to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.