Crime of Moral Turpitude – Immigration

Could you be deported because you were convicted of a crime of moral turpitude?

A criminal conviction can be grounds for deportation. All immigrants including those applying for a visa or green card, those who already have a visa or green card, and those with green cards applying for US citizenship can be deported under US immigration laws. Criminal conduct is a common reason why immigrants are placed in removal proceedings, especially if they are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

The term “involving moral turpitude” is difficult to define with precision. However, a challenge to this designation as being unconstitutionally vague has been rejected. Chu v. Cornell, 247 F.2d 929 (9th Cir. 1957), cert. denied 355 U.S. 892 (1958).

There is no specific definition of a crime of moral turpitude (CMT) in US immigration law, but it generally refers to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile or depraved. It conflicts with the rules of morality and the person committing the crime has been acting recklessly and often with evil intent. It is a concept that commonly includes crimes such as:

  • Fraud
  • Larceny
  • Intent to harm persons or things
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault with intent to rob or kill
  • Rape
  • Voluntary or reckless manslaughter
 

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In order to be deported based on committing a crime of moral turpitude, the person must have been convicted within 5 years after entering the US and sentenced to confinement or confined therefor for one year or longer. Although the conviction must occur within five years of entry, any entry into the United States may be used to support the charge of deportability.  They also must have been sentenced to confinement for at least one year. A crime considered of moral turpitude in which a sentence of less than one year was imposed would not necessarily be considered grounds of deportation.

A conviction for two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after entry would render a person deportable, so long as the offenses did not arise out of a single scheme, and regardless of whether the person was confined therefor.

In these types of situations, it is up to the Immigration Judge on a case-by-case basis to determine if it is a crime of moral turpitude. The Judge will usually look at both the language of the law under which the person was convicted and the actual records and facts surrounding the conviction. It is up to him/her to decide if the crime was intentional and if the offender should be deported from the US.

Crime of Moral Turpitude There are some situations in which you may be able to apply for a waiver under section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or for cancellation of removal. Successfully filing a waiver after being convicted of a crime of moral turpitude will allow you to avoid deportation. It is important to consult an experienced immigration attorney if you have been put into deportation proceedings for a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude.

CIMT Category Elements of Crime
Crimes Against a Person Criminal intent or recklessness, or is defined as morally reprehensible by state (may include statutory rape)
Crimes Against Property Involving fraud against the government or an individual (may include theft, forgery, robbery)
Sexual and Family Crimes No one set of principles or elements; see further explanation below (may include spousal or child abuse)
Crimes Against Authority of the Government Presence of fraud is the main determining factor (may include offering a bribe, counterfeiting)

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