As mentioned, crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) cannot be defined with precision. The general framework of CIMT goes beyond its plain language meaning of “inherently vile and morally reprehensible crimes,” but also stems from extended case law.

Overall, administrative case law has characterized CIMT to involve conduct that “shocks the conscience.” Based on this characterization, offenses such as rape, murder, and robbery may easily be classified as CIMT; still, the distinction of when an offense becomes a CIMT is not always clear.

Over the years, due to the term’s ambiguity, many immigrants have challenged their order of removal based on whether their offense was considered a CIMT. However, challenging on grounds of the term’s vagueness has often been rejected.

Handcuffs - Police


When questioning whether an offense falls under a crime involving moral turpitude, a general rule of thumb is identifying whether there was intent behind the act, or otherwise if there was evil motive behind the conduct. Intent is easy to spot in offenses such as murder or voluntary manslaughter, but what about other CIMT that don’t involve physical harm to another?

Marriage Fraud is a Crime

Fraud is a Crime

For example, fraud is a CIMT that has often been challenged by persons ordered for removal based on their conduct. In Tseung Chu v. Cornell, a resident of China served as a treaty merchant and had traveled between China and the US for business.

He returned to the US as a returning resident alien, but was issued an order of deportation due to violation of Title 26 USCA §145(b), evading the payment of income tax. The merchant appealed his conviction, arguing that his conduct did not have bad intentions, therefore did not involve moral turpitude.

The court referred to Jordan v. De George in its ruling and held that “conspiracy to defraud the United States of taxes” or “intent to sell [products] in fraud of law and evade the tax thereon” is a crime involving moral turpitude within the meaning of §19(a) of the Immigration Act of 1917.

Furthermore, while avoiding payment of income tax may seem like minor conduct to you for personal benefit, the act of defrauding or illegally obtaining money from the US is considered a CIMT with grounds for removability.

Moral Turpitude - Robbery


Fraud can be difficult to detect its presence within an offense. While fraud may not be an essential element to the crime, it can be intertwined within the act. Likewise, it may not always be clear-cut that a crime was committed with intent or evil motive.

If you are not a lawful permanent US resident and have been convicted of a crime, consult with an attorney to research the particular offense and determine if it is subject to the classification of a CIMT.

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