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Is Battery a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

man knocked out by a punch
Battery can be a crime of moral turpitude, but only if the injuries it causes are significant.

Battery can be a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT) if it causes significant injuries. This can trigger extra collateral consequences of a conviction. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may be deported. However, many batteries do not cause any injuries. Even if committed against a spouse, simple batteries generally not involve moral turpitude.

A CIMT can have repercussions for U.S. citizens, too. It can impact your:

  • employment, and
  • eligibility for a professional license or certification.

What is a crime of moral turpitude?

A crime of moral turpitude is a criminal offense that involves:

  • dishonesty,
  • fraud,
  • grave acts of baseness, or
  • depraved conduct.1

This usually requires a specific intent to commit the crime. A crime of moral turpitude generally cannot be committed by:

  • accident,
  • mistake, or
  • ignorance of the situation.

A crime that has these elements can be one of moral turpitude.2 Whether they are present or not is not always clear. Some crimes always involve moral turpitude. Some other offenses involve moral turpitude only some of the time.

What is a battery?

A battery is a willfully harmful or offensive touching.3

Very little force or contact is required. There does not need to be an injury. The contact does not need to leave a mark. It does not even need to be painful for there to be a battery.

Example: Marty flicks Caleb's ear.

The contact has to be deliberate and willful, though. Accidental contact does not amount to a battery.

Example: Alvin shoves Beatrice, who then falls into Clyde. Alvin has committed a battery on Beatrice. Beatrice has not committed a battery on Clyde.

Does battery involve moral turpitude?

Battery can be a crime of moral turpitude, but only if the injuries it causes are significant.

Alone, a battery is not a crime of moral turpitude. While it has to be intentional, the contact in a battery does not need to produce any injuries. This means many batteries cause trivial injuries or none at all. Such batteries do not amount to the base or depraved acts needed for a crime of moral turpitude. Courts have held that a battery is not automatically base or depraved conduct or moral turpitude.4

This is true, even if the victim of the battery was a spouse.5

If the battery causes significant injuries, though, it can be a crime of moral turpitude. The infliction of a traumatic condition is a crime of moral turpitude.6 Traumatic conditions are wounds or bodily injuries caused by physical force.7 They do not have to be severe. Examples include:

  • a concussion,
  • broken bones,
  • sprains,
  • internal bleeding, or
  • bruising.

Can I be deported?

You can be deported if convicted for a battery that is a crime of moral turpitude. You can also be made inadmissible for entry into the U.S.

Non-citizens need to have a “good moral character,” or risk immigration issues. If they commit a crime of moral turpitude, they can be:

  • deemed inadmissible for entry,8 or
  • deported, if they are already in the U.S.9

Non-citizens convicted for battery that involves moral turpitude can be deported if:

  • they are also convicted for a different CIMT, and
  • that other conviction is distinct from the battery.10

They can also be deported if:

  • the battery was a crime of moral turpitude,
  • the jail sentence is for at least a year, and
  • the conviction happened within five years of admittance to the U.S.11

Can I lose my professional license?

A conviction for a CIMT can impact your professional license or certification.

You need a license or certification to work in certain professions. Many of them require good moral character. If you a convicted for battery and it involved moral turpitude, you may be ineligible to get one. If you already had one when you were convicted, you may be:

  • put on probation,
  • suspended,
  • subject to revocation, or
  • banned permanently from your profession.

Examples of professional licenses and certifications that require good moral character include a:

  • license to practice medicine,12
  • law license,13
  • mortgage broker license,14
  • nursing certification,15 and
  • cosmetology license.16

Each licensing board has its own rules. Some may think that battery is a crime of moral turpitude. Others may not.

Could I lose my job?

Some employers may consider a battery to be a crime of moral turpitude. This could lead to you getting fired.

Many employment contracts require you to maintain a good moral character. Crimes of moral turpitude may violate that provision of the contract. Breaking the contract can lead to an adverse employment action. You could be disciplined or fired.


Legal References:

  1. Carty v. Ashcroft, 395 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2005).

  2. See Almanza-Arenas v. Lynch, 815 F.3d 469 (9th Cir. 2016).

  3. People v. Page, 123 Cal.App.4th 1466 (2004).

  4. Galeana-Mendoza v. Gonzales, 465 F.3d 1054 (9th Cir. 2006).

  5. Galeana-Mendoza v. Gonzales, supra.

  6. Grageda v. INS, 12 F.3d 919 (9th Cir. 1993) (holding that violations of California Penal Code 273.5(a) PC are crimes of moral turpitude).

  7. California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 840.

  8. 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i).

  9. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2).

  10. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii).

  11. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i).

  12. See e.g., New York Education Law 6524.

  13. See e.g., California Business & Professions Code 6101(a).

  14. See e.g., Texas Financial Code 156.303.

  15. See e.g., Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 112, Section 74.

  16. See e.g., Pennsylvania Cosmetology Law 4(a)(1).

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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