Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 20.12 c. Intent to Break the Law

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Here, the actor knows that a certain act is in violation of the law, but intentionally acts despite this knowledge.  This can include walking a dog without a leash or not wearing a seat-belt.  “Moral turpitude has been defined as an act which is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong or malum in se, so it is the nature of the act itself and not the statutory prohibition of it which renders a crime one of moral turpitude.”[76] 


An intentional violation of the law, standing alone, is insufficient to constitute a crime involving moral turpitude, since nearly every criminal offense violation requires this form of general criminal intent, yet only some of them are CMTs, while others are not.  As the Supreme Court has stated: “No moral turpitude is involved [where] intentional violation is sufficient to constitute guilt.”[77]

[76] Matter of P, 6 I. & N. Dec. 795, 798 (BIA 1955).

[77] Braden v. United States, 365 U.S. 431, 437, 81 S.Ct. 584 (1961) (witness was not immune from conviction of a violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192 for refusing to answer questions at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee in reliance upon his understanding of Supreme Court’s previous decisions), quoting Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 299, 49 S.Ct. 268, 274 (1929).



Fifth Circuit

Esparza-Rodriguez v. Holder, 699 F.3d 821 (5th Cir. Oct. 18, 2012) (Texas conviction of assault, in violation of Tex. Penal Code 22.01(a)(1), where the record shows intentional mens rea, is a crime of moral turpitude for immigration purposes), following Matter of Solon, 24 I. & N. Dec. 239, 241"42 (BIA 2007).