In California, certain crimes are categorized as “crimes of moral turpitude.” There is no simple definition for these crimes, and identifying these offenses is never easy. However, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can include notable consequences in addition to the penalties prescribed by law. Due to these collateral consequences, it is important to understand these crimes and what a conviction could mean for you.
While understanding what a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude could mean for you, never forget that a conviction is never guaranteed. If you are facing criminal charges, you always have the opportunity to fight back against those charges. While there is a guarantee that your efforts will be successful, taking on the charges in your case could help you avoid a conviction entirely.
If you have been arrested for a crime of moral turpitude in Los Angeles, your choice defense attorney will dramatically affect your case. Contact the Sigal Law Group for experienced legal representation that you can depend on.
Understanding Crimes of Moral Turpitude
If you look for a statute to provide an exact definition of a crime of moral turpitude, you won't find one. There is no specific definition of the term anywhere in California law. Instead, a patchwork of court cases has identified the crimes that fall within this group.
There are some common threads among these crimes, however. For example, many crimes of moral turpitude involve an element of fraud or dishonesty. Another factor that is common amongst many of these charges includes intentional acts. Generally speaking, these consequences apply in cases where a defendant has shown a desire to harm another person as opposed to simply acting recklessly or carelessly. Particularly heinous crimes like rape and murder are also treated as crimes of moral turpitude.
While these general guidelines could help you understand these crimes, identifying whether or not an offense qualifies as a crime of moral turpitude comes down to whether or not it is on the list. Some of the most commonly charged include:
- Attempted lewd acts on a minor
- Child abuse
- Criminal threats
- Domestic violence against a spouse
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Grand theft auto
- Malicious destruction of property
- Voluntary manslaughter
In addition to the crimes that are considered crimes of moral turpitude, there are other charges where California law is clear do not qualify. Some of these charges include:
- Child endangerment
- Domestic violence against someone other than a spouse
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Possession of marijuana
- Simple assault
The Effects of a Conviction for a Crime of Moral Turpitude
Understanding these charges is important due to the consequences a crime of moral turpitude can carry. Some of these consequences may come as a surprise to you while others could seem obvious. Regardless of whether or not you are aware of these consequences, they could impact your life in a variety of ways.
Effect on Testifying in Legal Proceedings
If you have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, it could be used against you at any time you are required to testify in court. In criminal cases, prior convictions cannot typically be used to impeach a witness. Impeachment involves providing evidence at trial to attack a witnesses' credibility. Impeachment is a powerful tool, and doing so using a person's criminal record is particularly effective.
One of the few situations where impeachment using a criminal conviction is allowed is when the crime was one of moral turpitude. This is the case whether the charge was a misdemeanor or a felony. While the potential impact on your witness testimony might not mean much in many cases, there are circumstances where it could mean a lot to you that a jury believes your testimony.
Impact on Immigration Status
The conviction of a crime of moral turpitude could have consequences on your immigration status. These consequences are more significant in most cases than a standard criminal conviction. If you are going through the immigration process, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude could result in you being marked inadmissible. You could also face deportation upon conviction for one of these crimes. To be deported, you must not only be convicted of a crime of moral turpitude but have served a year in jail within five years of entering the country. You could also face deportation for multiple convictions of a crime of moral turpitude.
This means green cardholders enjoy more protections the longer they are in the country. Despite these protections, multiple convictions for crimes of moral turpitude could also lead to your deportation. In addition to deportation, some of the effects that a conviction could lead to include:
- Losing the ability to apply for a green card
- Losing the ability to re-enter the company when you leave
- Barring your naturalization as a U.S. citizen
- Losing the ability to seek an adjustment of status.
Consequences for Professional Licenses
A conviction could also impact your employment. Many lines of work, including lawyers, teachers, and pilots, require professional licensure. In some cases, the licensing bodies that oversee these licenses could revoke your license upon a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude.
Many employers in these fields are sensitive to this type of criminal record. It is common for a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude to also lead to termination from your job. The loss of employment is one of the most severe consequences stemming from a crime of moral turpitude.
Contact an L.A. Criminal Defense Attorney
Following an arrest for a crime of moral turpitude in Los Angeles, it is important that you take action immediately. The consequences of a conviction could harm your source of income as well as your immigration status.
An experienced L.A. criminal defense attorney could help you fight back in these cases. Remember: if you prevail at trial you do not have to suffer any of the consequences of a conviction. To discuss your potential defense options, contact the Sigal Law Group right away.