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“Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude” In California – A Quick Legal Guide


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerThe term “crimes involving moral turpitude” refers to categories of crimes that either involve dishonesty or a base, vile, or depraved conduct that is shocking to a reasonable person.

Examples of California crimes commonly considered to involve moral turpitude include murder, embezzlement, burglary, robbery, perjury, and aggravated assault.

In California, categorizing a crime as involving moral turpitude is typically used to determine its immigration consequences, its impact on the credibility of a witness, and the potential for professional discipline, such as license revocation.

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The concept of moral turpitude, as defined in United States immigration law codes, is derived from the view of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). According to the BIA, crimes involving moral turpitude are those that shock the public conscience, display depraved or vile conduct, violate societal rules, demonstrate evil intent, show recklessness, are morally unacceptable, and indicate wrongful intent.

One complexity with moral turpitude is that it is a broad category rather than a specifically defined crime. The BIA determines on a case-by-case basis which offenses fall under this classification.

Taking another perspective, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines moral turpitude as reprehensible and wrongful conduct with evil or malicious intent. The USCIS also acknowledges that the definitions of moral turpitude may vary from state to state. In some cases, California’s local and state law enforcement may consult the USCIS for guidance when evaluating a crime involving moral turpitude.


There is no set statutory definition under criminal law. However, some examples of the specific crimes that California courts have found to constitute moral turpitude include:

  • Aggravated assault, including assault likely to produce bodily harm
  • Assault with intent to commit murder
  • Attempted lewd acts on a minor – California Penal Code 288 PC
  • Arson – California Penal Code 451 PC
  • Burglary – California Penal Code 459 PC
  • Child abuse – California Penal Code 273d PC
  • Criminal threats – California Penal Code 422 PC
  • Domestic violence when committed against a person’s spouse
  • Failure to register as a sex offenderCalifornia Penal Code 290 PC
  • Felon in possession of a firearm- California Penal Code 29800 PC
  • Felony hit and run – California Vehicle Code 20001VC
  • Grand theft auto – California Penal Code 487 PC
  • Murder – California Penal Code 187 PC
  • PerjuryCalifornia Penal Code 118 PC
  • Possession for sale of controlled substances – Health and Safety Code 11351 HS
  • Rape, California Penal Code 261 PC
  • Receiving stolen property – California Penal Code 496 PC
  • Robbery – California PC 211
  • Trespass with the intent to injure any property or property rights, or interfere with the conduct of business
  • Voluntary manslaughter – California Penal Code 192 PC
  • Welfare fraud, per Welfare & Institutions – California Penal Code 10980 WIC.
  • Embezzlement – Penal Code § 503 PC

There are several other offenses that can be considered crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs) depending on the specific case. These include accessory to a CIMT, animal cruelty or fighting, drug offenses, conspiracy, DUI, felony hit and run, fraud, incest, involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, mayhem, prostitution, paternity fraud, and spousal abuse.

CIMTs generally require a specific intent, meaning that the elements of the crime must involve some form of criminal intent, such as willfulness or intent to defraud.

A CIMT is defined as an offense that is morally reprehensible and violates established rules of morality. These crimes often involve vileness, baseness, evil intent, and a lack of good morals and character towards others and society.

Most aggravated felonies are considered CIMTs. In summary, the definition of moral turpitude involves acts that shock the public conscience. It is important to understand that offenses resulting from a mistake, accident, or poor judgment call are not typically included as CIMTs.


Some examples of specific offenses that California courts have found not to be CIMTs are:


A conviction of a California crime involving moral turpitude can have significant negative immigration consequences. According to United States immigration law, certain criminal convictions can result in deportation and inadmissibility for non-citizens.


Under the category of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes, crimes of moral turpitude (CIMTs) are included1. A non-citizen can be deported if they are convicted of a CIMT, receive a jail sentence of one year or longer for the conviction, and the conviction occurs within five years of being admitted to the U.S.

Additionally, if an immigrant is convicted of two or more crimes of moral turpitude arising from different criminal schemes, they may also be subject to deportability.

In terms of inadmissibility, a non-citizen can be deemed inadmissible if they are convicted of a CIMT or admit to all the elements of a crime of moral turpitude. Being declared inadmissible can have various consequences, such as being unable to apply for permanent resident status, adjustment of status, re-entry into the US after leaving, or naturalization for U.S. citizenship.

It is important to note that there is a petty offense exception for CIMTs. A single offense with a maximum sentence of one year will likely not result in inadmissibility or deportability.

These consequences highlight the significant impact that a conviction of a California crime involving moral turpitude can have on an individual’s immigration status.


A conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) can have significant negative consequences on a person’s career and professional licenses. This is true for various professions, including law and medicine.

For instance, in California, a lawyer who is convicted of a CIMT may face disciplinary action from the state bar. This can lead to either a suspension or disbarment, effectively preventing them from practicing law.

In addition, California state employees can also face disciplinary measures if they are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. This can result in suspension or even loss of employment.


It is crucial for professionals to be aware of the potential consequences of CIMTs on their careers and professional licenses.

Source: California State Bar. “Ethics FAQs.


It is essential to consult with an attorney as your first step. An experienced lawyer can promptly contact the prosecutor to negotiate a favorable outcome, aiming for the dismissal or significant reduction of the charge related to a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT).

If you are a non-citizen, early intervention is crucial as it can greatly impact the possibility of deportation.

In the event that the prosecution refuses to lessen or drop the charges, your attorney should prepare a strong defense strategy for trial. If the District Attorney lacks sufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you should be acquitted.

If you are convicted of a CIMT in California, your attorney can pursue post-conviction relief options, including:

  • Filing a motion for a new trial, which asks the judge to vacate the conviction and grant a new trial.
  • Requesting re-sentencing, where you ask the judge for a lesser sentence.
  • Initiating an appeal, seeking a higher court’s review to potentially overturn the conviction.
  • Submitting a writ of habeas corpus to argue that your imprisonment is unlawful.
  • Seeking commutation from the Governor to reduce or eliminate your sentence.
  • Pursuing expungement of your criminal record to clear it, leading to improved employment prospects.

It is important to have qualified legal representation to navigate these complex post-conviction avenues. Consulting an attorney will help ensure that you receive the best possible defense and explore all available options to challenge or mitigate the consequences of a CIMT conviction.


If you have been arrested for crimes involving moral turpitude, it is important to note that an arrest is not the same as a conviction. You have the right to legal counsel and the opportunity to present a defense against the charges. To ensure that your rights are protected and secure the best possible outcome for your case, it is advised to contact Tabibnia Law Firm for a free case evaluation. Cyrus Tabibnia, an experienced criminal defense attorney with over 18 years of experience, can provide valuable guidance and representation. Schedule a consultation today by calling 866-713-2159.

Please note, this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice.


§ N.7 Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude |CIMT. Chart.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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