What is Moral Turpitude?

What is Moral Turpitude?

For anyone travelling to the USA on the Visa Waiver Program you will normally be required to fill out an ESTA online registration.

One of the questions on the ESTA is..
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
Some people suggest that if you have been arrested for any reason then you must answer 'Yes'. However if you read the question, it is asking if the arrest or conviction involved Moral Turpitude. If the arrest or conviction does not involve Moral Turpitude then the statement implies you can answer 'No'.

So an important question is, what is Moral Turpitude?

The term ‘moral turpitude’ first appeared in US immigration law in 1891, which directed the exclusion from the United States of ‘persons who have been convicted of a felony or other infamous crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.’ It has however never been defined by statute as far as we know.

Crimes involving moral turpitude are grouped into three general categories.
  1. Crimes committed against property (for example, arson, blackmail, burglary, larceny, robbery, fraud, false pretences, theft, receiving stolen property)
  2. Crimes committed against governmental authority (for example, bribery, tax evasion, perjury, fraud against government functions)
  3. Crimes committed against persons, family relationships, and sexual morality (for example, serious assaults, gross indecency, lewdness, kidnapping, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape).

Below are quotes from U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 Visas

9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-1 Crimes Committed Against Property

a. Most crimes committed against property that involve moral turpitude include the element of fraud. The act of fraud involves moral turpitude whether it is aimed against individuals or government. Fraud generally involves:
(1) Making false representation;
(2) Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator;
(3) Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded;
(4) An intent to defraud; and
(5) The actual act of committing fraud

b. Other crimes committed against property involving moral turpitude involve an inherently evil intent, such as the act of arson. The following list comprises crimes frequently committed against property, which may be held to involve moral turpitude for the purposes of visa issuance:
(1) Arson;
(2) Blackmail;
(3) Burglary;
(4) Embezzlement;
(5) Extortion;
(6) False pretenses;
(7) Forgery;
(8) Fraud;
(9) Larceny (grand or petty);
(10) Malicious destruction of property;
(11) Receiving stolen goods (with guilty knowledge);
(12) Robbery;
(13) Theft (when it involves the intention of permanent taking); and
(14) Transporting stolen property (with guilty knowledge).

c. Crimes against property which do not fall within the definition of moral turpitude include:
(1) Damaging private property (where intent to damage not required);
(2) Breaking and entering (requiring no specific or implicit intent to commit a crime involving moral turpitude);
(3) Passing bad checks (where intent to defraud not required);
(4) Possessing stolen property (if guilty knowledge is not essential);
(5) Joy riding (where the intention to take permanently not required); and
(6) Juvenile delinquency.

9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-2 Crimes Committed Against Governmental Authority

a. Crimes committed against governmental authority which fall within the definition of moral turpitude include:
(1) Bribery;
(2) Counterfeiting;
(3) Fraud against revenue or other government functions;
(4) Mail fraud;
(5) Perjury;
(6) Harboring a fugitive from justice (with guilty knowledge); and
(7) Tax evasion (willful).

b. Crimes committed against governmental authority, which would not constitute moral turpitude for visa-issuance purposes, are, in general, violation of laws which are regulatory in character and which do not involve the element of fraud or other evil intent. The following list assumes that the statutes involved do not require the showing of an intent to defraud, or evil intent:
(1) Black market violations;
(2) Breach of the peace;
(3) Carrying a concealed weapon;
(4) Desertion from the Armed Forces;
(5) Disorderly conduct;
(6) Drunk or reckless driving;
(7) Drunkenness;
(8) Escape from prison;
(9) Failure to report for military induction;
(10) False statements (not amounting to perjury or involving fraud);
(11) Firearms violations;
(12) Gambling violations;
(13) Immigration violations;
(14) Liquor violations;
(15) Loan sharking;
(16) Lottery violations;
(17) Possessing burglar tools (without intent to commit burglary);
(18) Smuggling and customs violations (where intent to commit fraud is absent);
(19) Tax evasion (without intent to defraud); and
(20) Vagrancy.

9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-3 Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality

a. Crimes committed against the person, family relationship, and sexual morality, which constitute moral turpitude as it relates to visa issuance, include:
(1) Abandonment of a minor child (if willful and resulting in the destitution of the child);
(2) Adultery (see INA 101(f)(2) repealed by Public Law 97-116);
(3) Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude):
(a) Assault with intent to kill;
(b) Assault with intent to commit rape;
(c) Assault with intent to commit robbery;
(d) Assault with intent to commit serious bodily harm; and
(e) Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon (some weapons may be found to be lethal as a matter of law, while others may or may not be found factually to be such, depending upon all the circumstances in the case. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, the size of the weapon, the manner of its use, and the nature and extent of injuries inflicted.);
(4) Bigamy;
(5) Contributing to the delinquency of a minor;
(6) Gross indecency;
(7) Incest (if the result of an improper sexual relationship);
(8) Kidnapping;
(9) Lewdness;
(10) Manslaughter:
(a) Voluntary, occurs when a person intentionally kills another person after "adequate provocation"; that is, there has been action that was sufficient to incite an "ordinary person" to "sudden and intense passion" such that s/he loses self-control. It should be noted that the time between provocation and the killing should not be long enough for the passion to have cooled off. In most states, "adequate provocation" is defined to be only situations in which there is a threat of deadly force, or in which a person finds his/her spouse in bed with another person. Verbal threats are usually not considered adequate provocation; and
(b) Involuntary, where the statute requires proof of recklessness, which is defined as the awareness and conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk which constitutes a gross deviation from the standard that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A conviction for the statutory offense of vehicular homicide or other involuntary manslaughter that only requires a showing of negligence will not involve moral turpitude even if it appears the defendant in fact acted recklessly.
(11) Mayhem;
(12) Murder;
(13) Pandering;
(14) Possession of child pornography;
(15) Prostitution; and
(16) Rape (By statute, a person may be convicted of statutory rape even though the victim consents and provided she or he is under the statutory age at the time of the commission of the act. “Statutory rape” is also deemed to involve moral turpitude.)

b. Crimes committed against the person, family relationship, or sexual morality which do not involve moral turpitude include:
(1) Assault (simple) (i.e., any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly);
(2) Illegitimacy (i.e., the offense of begetting an illegitimate child);
(3) Creating or maintaining a nuisance (where knowledge that premises were used for prostitution is not necessary);
(4) Incest (when a result of a marital status prohibited by law);
(5) Involuntary manslaughter (when killing is not the result of recklessness);
(6) Libel;
(7) Mailing an obscene letter;
(8) Mann Act violations (where coercion is not present);
(9) Riot; and
(10) Suicide (attempted).
Regardless of where a crime is committed the decision of whether the crime does or does not involve Moral Turpitude and whether a foreign visitor to the USA is eligible or ineligible for a visa or visa waiver is a matter for US law. Readers who believe this may be an issue for them should consult a competent US immigration legal representative before applying for a visa or for admission to the United States.

Note: The content of this page is for general information only and should not under any circumstances be regarded as the law. We offer no guarantees that the information here is accurate.
Page created by Stu on 06-11-2012 10:46.
+ Last editted by SMAX on 29-12-2012 19:31. View History

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