Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 20.11 b. General Intent (to Commit an Act)

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General intent may be described as the intent to perform an act even though the actor does not necessarily desire the consequences that result.[74]  The actor need not even be aware the act is against the law.  This may, but does not necessarily, include a negligent or reckless act.


Where specific or corrupt intent is not an essential element of the offense, the offense will not be held to be a crime involving moral turpitude.  “Moral turpitude is dependent upon the depraved or vicious motive of the alien.  It is in the intent that moral turpitude inheres . . . .  The crime under consideration . . . does not require a specific intent and it does not appear that it is essential that the defendant have a vicious motive or a corrupt mind.  All that appears to be necessary for conviction . . . is that the act be done consciously.”[75]


General intent offenses that do not require at least gross negligence or recklessness are not crimes of moral turpitude.

[74] Black’s Law Dictionary, (8th Ed. 2004), Intent.

[75] Matter of Mueller, 11 I. & N. Dec. 268, 269 (BIA 1965) (Wisconsin conviction of lewd and lascivious conduct by unlawfully, publicly and indecently exposing sex organ held not a crime of moral turpitude).



Donley v. Davi, 180 Cal.App.4th 447, 458-459 (Dec. 2, 2009) ("The distinction between specific and general intent crimes is irrelevant to the question of moral turpitude. (People v. Campbell, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493, 28 Cal.Rptr.2d 716.)" And, section 273.5 is a general intent crime. (People v. Thurston (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1050, 1055, 84 Cal.Rptr.2d 221; People v. Campbell (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 305, 308, 90 Cal.Rptr.2d 315.) Further, numerous general intent crimes have been classified as involving moral turpitude. ( People v. Campbell, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493, 28 Cal.Rptr.2d 716, citing, e.g., People v. White (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 1299, 1301, 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 259 [Pen.Code, 246 (shooting at inhabited building) ]; People v. Brooks (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 669, 671, 4 Cal.Rptr.2d 570 [Pen.Code, 273d (corporal punishment of child resulting in trauma) ]; People v. Zataray (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 390, 400, 219 Cal.Rptr. 33 [Pen.Code, 207 (simple kidnapping) ].)").

Eighth Circuit

Alonzo v. Lynch,___ F.3d ___, ___, 2016 WL 1612772 (8th Cir. Apr. 22, 2016) ([T]he BIA and various courts have declined to classify [simple assault] as a [CIMT]. Simple assault typically is a general intent crime, and it is thus different in character from those offenses that involve a vicious motive, corrupt mind, or evil intent. Chanmouny v. Ashcroft, 376 F.3d 810, 814"15 (8th Cir. 2004) (emphasis added) (quoting Matter of O, 3 I. & N. Dec. 193, 194"95 (BIA 1948)); see also [Matter of] Solon, 24 I. & N. Dec. at 241 (same).).

Ninth Circuit

Uppal v. Holder, 576 F.3d 1014 (9th Cir. Aug. 11, 2009) (crimes requiring proof of only the general intent to commit an act may be considered crimes involving moral turpitude).

On this point, the court states:

Uppal nonetheless contends that since 268 only requires the intent to act, not the intent to harm, offenses under this section lack the necessary evil or malicious intent required of crimes of moral turpitude. Yet the BIA has recognized that aggravated assault may involve moral turpitude even in the absence of an "explicit element of evil intent." In re Lopez-Meza, 22 I. & N. Dec. 1188, 1193 (BIA 1999). We have also questioned the value of the oft-cited "evil intent" requirement:

If the crime is a serious one, the deliberate decision to commit it can certainly be regarded as the manifestation of an evil intent. Conversely, if the crime is trivial, even a deliberate intent to commit it will not demonstrate an intent so evil as to make the crime one of moral turpitude.

Galeana-Mendoza, 465 F.3d at 1061 (quoting Mei v. Ashcroft, 393 F.3d 737, 741 (7th Cir.2004)). Intentional conduct can be morally turpitudinous if accompanied by a "meaningful level of harm," regardless of whether the assault statute contains a general or a specific intent requirement. Solon, 24 I. & N. Dec. at 242. . . .

While some element of intent is a prerequisite to finding a crime involving moral turpitude, an intent to harm, per se, is not necessarily required. Solon, 24 I. & N. Dec. at 242. Section 268 requires an intent to take an action which, objectively viewed, would endanger another's life or result in serious bodily injury. The deliberate intent to take an action with such grave consequences "can certainly be regarded as the manifestation of an evil intent." Galeana-Mendoza, 465 F.3d at 1061. The fact that the statute does not require a subjective intent to harm does not preclude a 268 offense from qualifying as a categorical CIMT.

Id. at 1020-1021. This case seems to overrule, sub silentio, Matter of Mueller, (index decision from 2000). That case held that Penal Code 243(d) was not a CMT because "battery causing serious bodily injury" did not have any intent other than a simple battery (i.e., no intent to harm or cause serious bodily injury). See also Matter of Mueller, 11 I. & N. Dec. 268 (BIA 1965).
United States v. Narvaez-Gomez, 489 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. Jun. 6, 2007) (California general intent offenses, such as willfully and maliciously discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, under Penal Code 246, permit conviction for conduct showing a conscious indifference to the probable consequence that one or more projectiles will strike the target; the "conscious indifference" intent element is equivalent to recklessness.), citing Fernandez-Ruiz v. Gonzales, 466 F.3d 1121, 1132 (9th Cir.2006) (en banc) (limiting categorical crimes of violence to offenses committed through intentional use of force against the person of another rather than reckless or grossly negligent conduct)