what are crimes involving moral turpitude

What Are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Being convicted of a crime of moral turpitude can have lasting consequences, especially for people trying to gain citizenship. A conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude can result in a denied application for a visa or green card. A CIMT conviction can also result in deportation for those who have a green card or visa. Crimes involving moral turpitude can be hard to define and even harder to defend. This designation can be applied to almost any crime, which is why you need an attorney experienced in both criminal defense and immigration law.

If you or a loved one is accused of a crime involving moral turpitude, contact the Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group. Our criminal defense and immigration attorneys can fight aggressively for your future. Call us today for a free consultation at (602) 910-4040.

What Is Moral Turpitude?

what is moral turpitude

Moral turpitude is a vague concept. Moral turpitude often involves some depravity or evil intent in private and social duties that one owes to their community. Any crime that violates the standards of the community is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. Crimes that reflect negatively on a person’s honesty, integrity, or personal values can also be included in this definition.

Legal Definition of Moral Turpitude

The legal definition of moral turpitude doesn’t really exist. Most of the definition regarding this designation is developed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. It’s not clearly defined in immigration law, so the designation is often left up to the courts. If the immigration judge believes that the crime is morally wrong, this can constitute moral turpitude. This determination can be highly subjective, which is why it’s important to work with a lawyer experienced in immigration criminal law.

Examples of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

examples of crimes involving moral turpitude

Crimes involving moral turpitude can be both misdemeanors and felonies. Because there’s no concrete definition of crimes involving moral turpitude, much of the definition comes from precedence set by past cases. Some previously established crimes involving moral turpitude include:

This list is not exhaustive. The law is changing every day. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the moral turpitude designation can be used if the offense involves willful conduct that is reckless, malicious, or evil. The law can even vary by state.

Penalties for Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

The definition of crimes involving moral turpitude is broad, and the designation can be added to any crime under specific circumstances. Because of this, the penalties for a CIMT can range from no jail time to life in prison. A person’s criminal history can influence whether the judge decides to add the designation of CIMT. Those with no criminal record and only a minor criminal offense will likely have limited penalties. A criminal conviction often has more penalties than just jail time.

Arizona Felony Sentencing


Felony convictions in Arizona are dependent on many factors. Prior convictions, mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and whether the crime was a dangerous or non-dangerous offense. Felonies are often punishable by at least one year in prison. Below, we’ll list the presumptive and aggravated sentences for Arizona felonies.

  • Class 1 Felony: These felonies are reserved for the most heinous crimes, like first-degree murder. This is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
  • Class 2 Felony: Presumptive sentence of five years, aggravated sentence of 12.5 years.
  • Class 3 Felony: Three and a half years presumptive sentence, 8.75 years aggravated sentence.
  • Class 4 Felony: Two and a half years presumptive, 3.75 years aggravated.
  • Class 5 Felony: Presumptive sentence of 1.5 years, aggravated sentence of 2.5 years.
  • Class 6 Felony: One-year presumptive sentence, two years aggravated sentence.

Arizona Misdemeanor Sentencing

The maximum sentence for a first-offense Class 1 misdemeanor is 6 months in jail. A Class 2 misdemeanor has a maximum of four months, and a Class 3 offense has a maximum of 30 days. Petty crimes don’t result in jail time at all, but they can result in high fines. Misdemeanors in Arizona often come with no jail time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a lasting effect on your future.

Long-Term Consequences for Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

what is moral turpitude

Criminal convictions often have lasting negative consequences, but crimes that involve moral turpitude often have even more consequences. If you’ve been accused of a crime that involves moral turpitude, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. A criminal conviction alone can limit your employment and housing opportunities. If the crime involved moral turpitude, your immigration status can be severely compromised. Working with a criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and secure your future.


A conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude can have severe immigration consequences. When applying for a green card or visa, your background must show “good moral character” to get approval. Without a clean background, the application will likely be denied under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Immigration authorities can even deport legal residents if the conviction of a CIMT happens within five years of admission or ten years after permanent residency. The only exception to this is the petty offense exception. If you have only one offense and the maximum sentence is less than a year, then deportation and/or denial isn’t likely.

Professional Licenses

Your ability to get and maintain a professional license can also be compromised by a CIMT conviction. Doctors, realtors, EMTs, and even bingo game operators have to pass a background check to get a license. A crime involving moral turpitude can prevent you from getting a license to further your career.

Employment Opportunities

A criminal conviction can severely limit your employment opportunities. Private employers may deny employment if a CIMT appears on your background check. Government agencies often require a clean criminal history for employment. Certain aspects of your case may also limit the jobs available to you.

Housing Opportunities

Depending on the details of your conviction, a criminal record can even result in fewer housing opportunities. People who have to register as a sex offender face limitations as to what areas they can live in. Many landlords do background checks on prospective tenants, and a criminal conviction will often result in a denial.

Education Opportunities

Having a criminal conviction can even impact your education opportunities. Many schools will not accept a prospective student with a criminal record, and some convictions can severely limit your financial aid options.

What Should I Do If I’m Charged With Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?


If you or a loved one is accused of a CIMT, the best thing to do is reach out to an experienced attorney immediately. The arrest process can be overwhelming and confusing, and no one is on your side except your defense team. If you’re arrested for a crime and fear the lasting consequences to your immigration status, follow the steps below and contact the immigration attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group today.

Remain Calm

Arrests can be a terrifying experience for anyone. Anything you do or say can be held against you later, so it’s essential to follow directions and avoid added charges like resisting arrest. Stay calm and follow the orders that the police may give you. Failure to do so may result in injuries and added charges.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

After an arrest, the law enforcement officers will read something called Miranda Rights. These are basic rights you have after an arrest. You’ve probably heard this in movies or on television–you have the right to remain silent. You do not legally have to answer any questions without an attorney present. Arresting officers may use anything you say as evidence against you later. Stay calm, stay silent, and call the attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group.

Contact the Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Ybarra Maldonado Law Group

cimt penalties

Crimes of moral turpitude can have lifelong consequences. At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we understand the devastating consequences these convictions can have on members of our community. Our Phoenix immigration attorneys work tirelessly to fight against these charges and reduce the negative impact they may have on your life.

How the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group Can Help

Working with a team of experienced attorneys can result in the best possible outcome in your case. At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, our attorneys are knowledgeable in both criminal defense and immigration law. Schedule a free case evaluation with a Phoenix immigration attorney by calling (602) 910-4040 today.

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