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Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

The phrase “moral turpitude” refers generally to acts that are inherently evil or wrong by any society’s standards (malum in se), rather than acts that are regulated by society (malum prohibitum).

Conduct that is inherently base, vile or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons, or to society in general.

Those acts that are offensive to American ethics and moral standards. Some more common CIMTs are crimes of theft, fraud and serious violence.

The seriousness of the crime nor the severity of the sentence determine what is or is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Shoplifting a piece of bubble gum is a CIMT. The facts of the case do not determine whether it is a CIMT.

Negligence ad Recklessness
Generally, there must be some form of specific intent to do harm or some level of knowledge. Some level of a vicious motive, corrupt mind or evil intent.

Some criminal offenses involving criminally reckless behavior are considered CIMT.

Criminal negligence is unintentional and committed without thought of the risk of injury.

Divisible statutes and the record of conviction
A divisible statute has more than one subsection. You may find a NJ Statute where one section describes elements that involve moral turpitude and another section does not. If this is the case, then reference is made to the individual’s criminal record of conviction to determine CIMT.

Record of conviction documents include the indictment, plea, verdict and sentence.

The record of conviction does not include the arrest record. However, it might be used if the police report was specifically incorporated into the guilty plea or admitted by your client.

The pre-sentence investigation report (PSI) should not be used.

Police reports can be used by the Immigration Judge (IJ) in the context of discretionary relief applications, but not (usually) to determine whether the offense constitutes a CIMT. If the record of conviction does not make it clear as to which subsection of the NJ Statute applies then the NJ Statute must be read at the minimum criminal conduct necessary to sustain a conviction under the NJ Statute.

Now if a non-divisible statute contains acts that do and do not involve moral turpitude, the defendant’s crime cannot be classified as a CIMT. WHY? This is because the statute must be read at the minimum criminal conduct necessary to sustain a conviction under the NJ Criminal Statute.

By Ronald P. Mondello