Is Domestic Violence a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

domestic violence in california
Domestic Violence can be considered a crime of moral turpitude in CA

Domestic violence can be a crime of moral turpitude. In many states, it will be if the alleged victim is a spouse. If it is a crime of moral turpitude, the collateral consequences of the conviction will be worse. It can prevent someone from getting a professional certification or license. Those who have a license, already, may have theirs revoked.

A domestic violence conviction can also impact a non-citizen's immigration status.

What is a crime of moral turpitude?

A crime of moral turpitude is a type of criminal offense. It involves a serious offense involving:

  • dishonesty,
  • fraud, or
  • conduct that is immoral, vile, or depraved.

Petty offenses are exempt from being crimes of moral turpitude.

Generally, a crime also has to have intent. Crimes usually have to involve more than the following types of conduct:

  • accidental,
  • mistaken,
  • negligent, or
  • reckless.

These are all elements of a crime, though. As a result, some crimes will almost always involve moral turpitude. Some other criminal offenses may depend on the specific facts of the case.1

Does it matter if the domestic violence was against a spouse?

It can matter if the alleged domestic violence involved a spouse.

In many states, including California, the identity of the alleged victim is a huge factor. When it is a spouse, domestic violence is a crime of moral turpitude.2 When it is someone different, it is not a crime of moral turpitude.3

Does the specific collateral consequence make a difference?

Collateral consequences are penalties of a conviction that do not come from the court. Instead, they come from:

  • employers,
  • other businesses,
  • government agencies, or
  • professional organizations.

Different parties can have different rules. Some may think that domestic violence shows moral turpitude. Others may not. The specific collateral consequence can matter.

Are there employment consequences?

Many employment contracts require all workers have a good moral character. A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can break this contract. Some employers may think that domestic violence involves moral turpitude. If they do, they can fire the employee.

For example, California state employees can be disciplined for committing a crime of moral turpitude.4 Other employers may not discipline someone. The details of the case may matter. Certain professions can be stricter than others.

Example: Tina and Paul are both convicted for domestic violence. Paul is an electrician. He does not get fired. Tina is a social worker who helps children through the divorce process. She does lose her job.

Are professional licenses at risk?

A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can create licensing issues. It can make it impossible to get a license. Someone with a license can see it get revoked. This can create serious employment problems. Entire professions can become out of reach.

Different licensing agencies have their own rules. Some treat domestic violence as a crime of moral turpitude. Many of these require “good moral character” in members. A moral turpitude conviction can prevent someone from proving that.

Some licenses that require a good moral character include:

  • medical licenses,5
  • law licenses,6
  • nursing certifications,7
  • mortgage broker licenses,8 and even
  • cosmetology licenses.9

People who already have one of these licenses are not immune. They can still face a penalty. They can face disciplinary action after a conviction for domestic violence. This can lead to:

  • probation,
  • suspension,
  • revocation, or
  • a permanent bar from the profession.

Are there immigration implications?

Immigration law separates domestic violence from crimes of moral turpitude.10 Domestic violence is not a crime of moral turpitude. However, domestic violence offenses are deportable, as well.

This includes a crime of violence against:

  • a current or former spouse,
  • someone in a spouse-like relationship with the defendant,
  • the other parent of the defendant's child,
  • a cohabitant, or
  • anyone protected by the state's domestic or family violence laws.

The following domestic violence offenses are deportable, as well:

Domestic violence offenses are not crimes of moral turpitude. This means a conviction does not require:

  • the conviction carry at least one year of jail time and come within five years of admission to the U.S., or
  • an additional conviction for a separate crime of moral turpitude.

Legal references:

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

  2. Grageda v. INS, 12 F.3d 919 (9th Cir. 1993).

  3. Morales-Garcia v. Holder, 567 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2009).

  4. California Government Code Section 19572(k).

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

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

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

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

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

  10. 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E).

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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