What does it mean for a crime to be a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT)?

It can help to have a refresher of how laws are made. State legislatures introduce bills that are voted into law. State legislatures have the authority, for the most part, to define what is a crime inside the state. 

Crimes are usually classified as either “misdemeanor” or “felony” crimes, depending on the punishment a person faces for the crime. If the punishment is a fine only or imprisonment for less than one year, a crime is classified as a misdemeanor. If a person can be punished by more than a year’s imprisonment, with or without hard labor, the crime is classified as a felony. 

Regardless of whether a crime is a misdemeanor or felony, it can still be classified as a CIMT. But crimes involving moral turpitude can come with additional punishments. 

While state legislatures usually designate misdemeanor and felony crimes, crimes involving moral turpitude can be more difficult to recognize. Courts interpret legal definitions to decide whether a crime should be considered a crime involving moral turpitude. 

Eventually, courts settled on a definition to include crimes in which a person acts particularly recklessly or in an evil and morally reprehensible manner. Crimes involving moral turpitude are ones that are: 

  • Shocking to the conscience
  • A grave violation of socially-acceptable behavior
  • Vile or depraved acts

It can be difficult to understand what those mean if you are not familiar with criminal law. Here are some examples of crimes that would be crimes involving moral turpitude:

As you can see, most of these crimes are serious ones. If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you protect your legal rights and prevent you from doing extra jail time or paying unnecessary fines and fees. 

When Are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude Important?

In a few very specific situations, crimes involving moral turpitude can be especially important. These situations include:

  • Criminal deportation proceedings
  • Demonstrating one’s character and fitness to practice law or medicine
  • Registering to vote in some states

There can be slight differences in how each of these situations will define the exact meaning of “crime involving moral turpitude.” However, the general meaning applies across all of these situations. 

If a person has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, it can negatively impact their credibility as a witness and their qualification for certain jobs in positions of public trust. 

The consequences of being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude can be severe. So it is always in your best interest to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your situation. 

What Crimes Are Usually Not Considered Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Whether a crime is a CIMT is determined on a case-by-case basis. Generally, some crimes that are not usually considered to be CIMTs include:

These crimes do not have either the required intentional mental state or the egregious element of a CIMT. 

However, immigration laws have more liberal interpretations of what constitutes a CIMT. 

Domestic Violence

Under U.S. immigration law, domestic violence can be a CIMT. U.S. immigration law looks at both the language of the statute and the underlying facts. For example, an assault that might not otherwise be a CIMT can be considered one if it was committed against a spouse or child. 

Driving Under the Influence / Driving While Intoxicated

First-time DUIs are not usually considered CIMTs by professional licensing boards and they do not have any impact on a person’s credibility as a witness, generally. Immigration courts have found hit-and-run offenses to constitute CIMTs, whether or not they involve DUI. 

If you have a concern about a CIMT on your criminal record, you should seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.