Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 20.3 (A)

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(A)  Evil Intent Alone Insufficient.  On the other hand, some courts have held that the presence or absence of a corrupt or vicious mind is not controlling.[47]


It is true that in the fraud context we have placed a great deal of weight on the requirement of an evil intent. But even in this context, we have not held that if a statute requires evil intent, it necessarily involves moral turpitude. We have held only that without an evil intent, a statute does not necessarily involve moral turpitude. See Hirsch v. INS, 308 F.2d 562, 567 (9th Cir. 1962) (“A crime that does not necessarily involve evil intent, such as an intent to defraud, is not necessarily a crime involving moral turpitude.”). To state the proposition positively, we have held that in the fraud context an evil intent is necessary, but not sufficient, for a crime inevitably to involve moral turpitude. Cf. Gonzalez-Alvarado, 39 F.3d at 246 (holding that “[a] crime involving the willful commission of a base or depraved act is a crime involving moral turpitude, whether or not the statute requires proof of evil intent.”).


While mental state is an important factor, we reject the contention that all crimes requiring some degree of evil intent are necessarily crimes involving moral turpitude. Here, for example, the Washington statute permits malice (which imports an evil intent) to “be inferred from an act done in willful disregard of the rights of another, or an act wrongfully done without just cause or excuse, or an act or omission of duty betraying a willful disregard of social duty.” RCW § 9A.04.110(12). Under this definition, evil intent may become much too attenuated to imbue the crime with the character of fraud or depravity that we have associated with moral turpitude. At least outside of the fraud context [as to which the court expressed no opinion], the bare presence of some degree of evil intent is not enough to convert a crime that is not serious into one of moral turpitude leading to deportation under section 241(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.[48]

[47] Guerrero de Nodahl v. INS, 407 F.2d 1405 (9th Cir.  1969); Matter of Medina, 15 I. & N. Dec. 611, 613-614 (BIA 1976).

[48] Rodriguez-Herrera v. INS, 52 F.3d 238, 240-241 (9th Cir. 1995) (footnote omitted).



Ninth Circuit

Saavedra-Figueroa v. Holder, 625 F.3d 621 (9th Cir. Nov. 5, 2010) (California misdemeanor conviction of false imprisonment, in violation of Penal Code 236, was not a categorical crime of moral turpitude, because crime did not require noncitizen to have the intent to harm necessary for the crime to be base, vile or depraved).