Many individuals aspire to come to the United States because they get the impression that anything goes here. That’s far from the case, though. While both residents and citizens have many more personal liberties than those living in other countries, there are limits as to what you can lawfully do while still maintaining your freedom.
Prosecutors are steadfast in trying individuals suspected of crimes that are immoral or that violate public consciousness. Immigration officials are also quick to deny visa requests from or deport individuals convicted of moral turpitude offenses.
How interpretations of moral turpitude have evolved
There’s no one go-to source if you’re looking to get a clear definition of what “moral turpitude” is, although many have used the phrase in the U.S. since 1891.
The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to address whether the terminology was too vague when the case Jordan vs. DeGeorge came before them in 1951. The justices cited its use by immigration officials for the past 60 years when outlining why they didn’t feel that the phrase was unconstitutionally vague. Those same justices also relayed how they believed that fraud was “without exception,” a crime of moral turpitude at the time.
Lawmakers who drafted the Immigration Act of 1952 also used the moral turpitude phrase to refer to a broad subset of crimes. Those same legislators also referenced how the passing of that law would exclude individuals convicted of crimes from entering the United States.
What falls into the category of moral turpitude crimes?
There are certain criminal offenses that immigration officials tend to classify as crimes of moral turpitude. Violent acts such as kidnapping, aggravated assault, rape, manslaughter and murder make the list. So do white-collar crimes such as theft, bribery and fraud. Criminal offenses such as arson, smuggling, fraud, creating mayhem, prostitution and arson also qualify as moral turpitude crimes.
How your criminal record may affect your immigration status
Many U.S. visa holders assume that they’ll be able to come here and stay up until their travel permit expires. Most residents think that nothing could affect their ability to stay in the U.S. A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude could put you at risk for deportation, though. A deportation defense attorney can advocate for you at any hearings you must attend and, if necessary, appeal a judge’s ruling in your Los Angeles case.