Moral Turpitude Law & Legal Definition


Turpitude means a corrupt or depraved or degenerate act or practice. Moral turpitude refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience. Offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assaults involve moral turpitude. However, assaults not involving dangerous weapons or evil intent have been held not to involve moral turpitude.

Moral turpitude may be a reason for deporting an alien. The alien must be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years after the date of entry, and sentenced to confinement or confined therefore for one year or longer. Although the conviction must occur within five years of entry, any entry into the United States may be used to support the charge of deportability. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a crime of moral turpitude is inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to social standards of morality and done with a reckless, malicious, or evil intent. It is a broad and subjective term that can be used for any crime that USCIS considers offensive.

Conviction of crimes of moral turpitude may also disqualify someone from an employment opportunity. The precise definition of a crime that involves moral turpitude isn't always clear, but the following crimes are always considered crimes of moral turpitude:

  • murder;
  • voluntary manslaughter;
  • rape;
  • statutory rape;
  • domestic violence;
  • prostitution;
  • fraud and crimes where fraud is an element
  • all theft offenses (but see receipt of stolen property below);
  • blackmail;
  • malicious destruction of property;
  • arson;
  • alien smuggling;
  • harboring a fugitive;
  • bribery;
  • perjury