Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

Generally, Crimes involving Moral Turpitude affect the following groups of aliens:

  • Aliens seeking admission to the United States (adjustment applicants);
  • Aliens who have been admitted less than five years; and,
  • Long time legal residents if there are two or more convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude.

There is no Touchstone formula as concerns crimes involving moral turpitude. The older authorities describe an acts of "baseness, vileness, and depravity," or indicative of a "criminal heart and a criminal tendency."

Notwithstanding the vagaries of the term itself, there is a huge body of case law from which most crimes can be categorized as either involving moral turpitude or not. However, this is presently an exceedingly dynamic phrase. In earlier iterations of this page I have had lists of crimes which are always, never, and sometimes considered crimes involving moral turpitude. Those lists were constantly changing and rather than post inaccurate and outdated information, I have simply removed them.

As a general proposition, crimes that involve theft or fraud will almost always be crimes involving moral turpitude. Crimes of domestic violence, drug trafficking, an most sex offenses involve moral turpitude. Prostitution, controversially, is presently considered to involve moral turpitude (though analytically it should not). One should seek legal counsel before assuming an offense either does or does not involve moral turpitude.

Under the current state of the law, the moral turpitude MUST be an element of the offense. In other words, the court's cannot look to the actual conduct of the alien to determine whether he has committed a crime involving moral turpitude, but only to the statute of conviction. See Basic Approach to Analyzing a Criminal Immigration Case. A key case on this issue in the 9th Circuit is Olivas-Motta v. Holder.

Please note that a crime which is not a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude can still be an aggravated felony (i.e. Tax Evasion and Simple Assault); or an independent ground of Removal (i.e. False Claim of Citizenship).

Removability for a crime involving moral turpitude differs depending on whether the case is one involving deportability or one involving admissibility. A conviction that would render an alien inadmissible does not necessarily render an alien deportable.


In Olivas-Motta v. Holder, Official cite unavailable (9th Circuit May 17, 2013):

"A 'crime involving moral turpitude' is a generic crime whose description is complete unto itself, such that 'involving moral turpitude' is an element of the crime. Because it is an element of the generic crime, an IJ is limited to the record of conviction in determining whether an alien has been "convicted of" a CIMT. We conclude that Silva-Trevino was wrongly decided, and that the IJ and the BIA improperly considered evidence beyond the record of conviction in holding that Olivas-Motta was 'convicted of' a 'crime involving moral turpitude.'"