Crimes involving moral turpitude

In immigration law, many offenses may fall under the category known as crimes involving moral turpitude. Immigrants who are seeking to become lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens in South Carolina may find this term confusing. But even knowing the official definition may not be all that helpful because its wording is notoriously vague and has traditionally been open to interpretation.

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the law states that a crime involving moral turpitude comprises one or more of the following:

  • An act that is depraved or immoral (such as murder or kidnapping)
  • An act that violates the basic duties everyone owes to each other
  • A reprehensible act that involves intent, at the least, of recklessness

Based on legal precedents set in courts over the years, these offenses can be further defined. A CIMT may include the intent to defraud, theft with the intent to dispossess the owner of a possession permanently or the intent to cause serious bodily harm. The law may consider some reckless acts to be CIMTs, as well as some offenses that are malicious or that include lewd intent.

In some cases, the judge may have the discretion to examine the conduct of the defendant to determine whether a CIMT applies beyond the record of conviction, even considering facts that are not necessary for evidence of the offense.

As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains, a CIMT does not automatically result in deportation, but it may create a conditional bar to proving good moral character. An immigrant must establish GMC (character that meets the standards of average citizens in the community where the immigrant lives) in order to become naturalized.