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What a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude Means to Your Immigration Status

What a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude Means to Your Immigration Status

A criminal conviction can result in severe consequences, such as incarceration and/or fines. But for foreign nationals living, working, or merely vacationing in the U.S., being found guilty of a crime can be even more devastating. If a court determines that the defendant committed a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), the individual may be deemed inadmissible or could be deported.

Thus, if you are a non-citizen and have been accused of a crime, you may be fighting two battles. First, you will be challenging the allegations made against you. Second, you will be working to protect your current or future immigration status in the U.S. That is why you must retain the services of a lawyer who understands criminal and immigration laws. Their knowledge and insight can have a substantial impact on the outcome of your case as well as your ability to immigrate to or remain in the U.S.

What Is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?

Neither criminal nor immigration law has a precise definition of a crime involving moral turpitude. Essentially, a CIMT is considered an offense demonstrating a depraved or vile mind and goes against what is morally acceptable in society.

Interestingly, a person's future and opportunities in the U.S. can be shaped by a concept with no solid form itself – no set definition.

What Crimes Are CIMTs?

Because the definition of a CIMT is not clearly stated and is merely considered reprehensible conduct done with a depraved mind that shocks the public conscience, a range of crimes may be determined to be CIMTs.

When a person is charged with a crime, it is not explicitly stated that they had been accused of a crime of moral turpitude. Generally, when a court is determining whether an offense is a CIMT, it will apply either a categorical or divisible approach to decide whether the designation is appropriate.

Using the categorical approach, the court will consider the following:

  • The elements of the offense
  • The generic definition of a crime involving moral turpitude
  • The relationship between the elements of the crime and the generic CIMT definition

The divisible approach works similarly in that the court will compare the elements of the offense with the definition of a CIMT. The difference is that the alleged offense is one in which the elements can be divided and seen as different crimes. Each alternative element is then compared to the CIMT definition.

Several crimes in New York may be considered CIMTs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Third-degree assault (New York Penal Law § 120)
  • Second-degree assault (New York Penal Law § 120.05)
  • First-degree assault (New York Penal Law § 120.10)
  • Second-degree menacing (New York Penal Law § 120.14)
  • First-degree reckless endangerment (New York Penal Law § 120.25)
  • Third-degree stalking (New York Penal Law § 120.50)
  • Forcible touching (New York Penal Law § 130.52)
  • Fourth-degree criminal mischief (New York Penal Law § 140.00)
  • Third-degree criminal mischief (New York Penal Law § 140.05)
  • Petit larceny (New York Penal Law § 155.25)
  • Fourth-degree grand larceny (New York Penal Law § 155.30)
  • Third-degree robbery (New York Penal Law § 160.05)
  • Theft of services (New York Penal Law § 165.15)
  • Fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property (New York Penal Law § 165.40)
  • Third-degree forgery (New York Penal Law § 170.05)
  • Second-degree forgery (New York Penal Law § 170.10)
  • Third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument (New York Penal Law § 170.20)
  • Second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument (New York Penal Law § 170.25)
  • Second-degree criminal impersonation (New York Penal Law § 190.25)
  • Fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (New York Penal Law § 220.31)
  • Fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana (New York Penal Law § 221.40)
  • Prostitution (New York Penal Law § 230.00)
  • Fourth-degree patronizing a prostitute (New York Penal Law § 230.03)
  • Fourth-degree promoting prostitution (New York Penal Law § 230.20)
  • Third-degree promoting prostitution (New York Penal Law § 230.25)
  • Endangering the welfare of a child (New York Penal Law § 260.10)
  • Fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon (New York Penal Law § 265.01)

Note that because CIMTs are a nebulous concept, the offenses falling under this designation can change. A court may or may not consider the crimes listed above as a CIMT, which is why it is imperative that if you have been charged, you speak with an experienced attorney about your case.

When Does a CIMT Affect Immigration Status?

A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can affect your immigration status in two different ways. If you are a foreign national already holding a green card or visa, you may face deportation.

According to the law, deportation can result under the following conditions:

  • The defendant was convicted of a CIMT; and
  • The offense was committed within 5 years after being admitted to the U.S.; and
  • The crime carries a sentence of 1 year or more; or
  • The defendant was convicted of two or more CIMTs; and
  • The offenses happened at any time after admission to the U.S.;
  • The convictions did not arise out of the same scheme

If you are not currently a green card or visa holder and you are accused of a CIMT, you may be inadmissible to the U.S. That means your application for a visa or green card may be denied or you cannot re-enter the U.S.

Inadmissibility applies when:

  • The defendant is convicted of a CIMT; or
  • The defendant admits to committing a CIMT; or
  • The defendant is convicted of 2 or more CIMTs; and
  • The offenses were part of a single scheme or multiple schemes; and
  • The combined sentences for the crimes is 5 years or more

How an Attorney Can Help in Cases Involving CIMTs

If you are a foreign national charged with a criminal offense, you might be wondering whether it is considered a crime involving moral turpitude and how it will affect your immigration status. Because this is a complicated area of the law, it is best to discuss your situation with an attorney. They can review the details of your case and determine what defenses can be raised and whether you can argue against the offense being classified as a CIMT.

At Musa-Obregon Law PC, we are committed to helping those in New York City and Queens through their criminal defense and immigration matters. We understand the importance of building and maintaining a future in the U.S. for you and your family and the devastating consequences that can arise if you are charged with a possible CIMT offense. That is why we will conduct the necessary research and fight aggressively for you.

Schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at (888) 502-8461 or contacting us online today.


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