What Is ‘A Crime Of Moral Turpitude’?

The language barrier is of the biggest challenges immigrants face when they come to the United States. People can struggle to read and write when English is not their first language, making it difficult to do things like get a job or find housing.

The legal language is even more complex. Even if you are fluent in English, it can be confusing and ambiguous. For instance, the phrase “moral turpitude” is a critical one for immigrants to know, but it is not something most people understand.

Moral turpitude in plain English

People charged with a crime of moral turpitude (CMT) are accused of an illegal action that is reckless, vile or shocking to the public. However, this is not the only definition. In fact, the phrase itself is vague and can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on who is making the interpretation.

For example, perjury (or lying in court) can be a CMT in some cases, but not others.

In other words, there can be a great deal of disagreement when a person is accused of a CMT. And the stakes of who prevails in this argument are incredibly high for someone facing deportation, as non-citizens can face mandatory removal actions if a court convicts them of a CMT.

Making the situation even more complicated is a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which puts the responsibility of proving a crime did not involve “moral turpitude.” Instead of prosecutors having to argue that an offense meets the requirements for removal successfully, it will be up to the accused to prove otherwise.

Defending against CMT allegations

Legal phrases like moral turpitude are confusing and vague, and failing to understand them can be hugely damaging to a person’s case. Thus, it is crucial for a person facing charges related to a CMT to have legal representation. 

While you may know that you have not committed a CMT, proving that in court is far more complex than you might realize. With the help of a lawyer who understands the law and the various ways to defend against these allegations, you can have a better chance of avoiding mandatory removal from the U.S.

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