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Posted on November 6, 2019 in Criminal Defense

What Are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude?

Sometimes committing a criminal act can have consequences that persist even after your debt to society has been paid. In Arizona, crimes involving moral turpitude would fall under this category. These offenses do not refer to specific acts, but instead, are part of a group of crimes that are considered to have similar characteristics.

Being convicted of these crimes can often affect your ability to obtain professional licenses. They may also impact your immigration status and could limit your ability to testify in court as a witness. This is due to the fact that crimes involving moral turpitude can make you seem less credible to a jury.

While the labeling of a crime this way doesn’t increase sentencing after a conviction, it can have a disastrous impact on certain areas of your life. For that reason, it’s important to have a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side if you are facing any criminal charges.

Examples of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Arizona law does not define the term “moral turpitude.” So, the standards used to classify these crimes will depend on whether you are involved in a licensing issue, immigration issue, or something else.

That said, the generally accepted legal definition of moral turpitude is an offense that violates the standards of the community and shows the offender’s depravity, or adversely reflects on his honesty, integrity, or personal values.

While this definition might seem vague, courts in this state have interpreted it to include offenses such as the following:

Crimes involving dishonesty, including:

  • Embezzlement
  • Insurance fraud
  • Forgery
  • Perjury, and
  • Falsified police reports.

Sexual crimes, including:

Drug crimes, including sales and trafficking of heroin and other narcotics.

Serious crimes against other people, including:

  • Murder
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Kidnapping
  • Hit and run, and
  • Theft.

Now, most of the crimes listed above are felonies, which are serious and punishable by one or more years in prison. By contrast, crimes that only involve negligence generally do not qualify. This is because there must be recklessness or intent on behalf of the perpetrator. Because a crime such as a DUI lacks the requisite intent, it would not fall under this category.

Professional Licensing

For most people who run into issues with having these types of offenses on their record, it concerns professional licensing. Felonies can prevent you from getting a license in most professions. At the same time, misdemeanor crimes involving moral turpitude can also be a problem.

Under Arizona law, your background must be checked for felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude if you wish to be licensed in any of the following professions:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Chiropractors
  • Funeral directors and embalmers
  • Optometrists
  • Pharmacists
  • Realtors
  • Veterinarians
  • Notary publics
  • Physician assistants
  • Athletic trainers
  • Massage therapists
  • Midwives
  • Hearing aid dispensers/audiologists
  • EMTs
  • State government personnel, and
  • Pawnbrokers.

Note that even those that wish to run a bingo game must be licensed in Arizona. This means that they may be denied on the grounds of moral turpitude. Further, beyond the professions listed in the statute, private employers and professional associations may look into your background and deny your license based on these types of crimes. An example would be attorney bar associations.

Immigration Issues

Crimes involving moral turpitude can also cause issues for you if you are not a US citizen. Your background will be heavily scrutinized as part of your application to be admitted to this country, and you may be denied a green card or tourist visa.

Note that in some cases you may also be deported for these crimes. This would apply if you are convicted within 5 years of being admitted into the country or within 10 years of becoming a permanent resident. However, the crime in question must carry a potential prison sentence of at least one year.

Keep in mind that there may be an exception to this rule. This is known as the “youthful offender” exception and would apply if the crime was committed while you were under the age of 18.

Strategy for Facing Crimes Against Moral Turpitude Charges

These cases can be complicated and can lead to serious direct and indirect consequences. For that reason, it’s critical to have an attorney on your side who has experience handling these types of criminal cases.

One strategy that can be used to limit the effect of these crimes, is to plead to a lesser offense. An example would be involuntary manslaughter instead of murder. In this case, the crime on your record would likely not be considered a crime of moral turpitude.

However, please note that the law is vague on what offenses fall under this category. Further, depending on what issue you are facing, the government or licensing body may look further into the specific facts of your crime. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to have a qualified Phoenix criminal defense attorney evaluate your case and advise you on how best to proceed.