Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 21.8 5. Crime of Moral Turpitude Conviction

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Some drug offenses are considered crimes involving moral turpitude, which can trigger inadmissibility or deportation.[72]  A conviction for distribution of cocaine, for example, is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, where knowledge or intent is an element of the offense.[73]  A conviction of simple possession, or an equivalent offense should not trigger inadmissibility as a crime of moral turpitude, [74] although it would trigger inadmissibility as a controlled substances offense.[75]

[72] See Chapter 20, supra.  See also N. Tooby, J. Rollin & J. Foster, Crimes of Moral Turpitude § 9.8 (2005).

[73] Matter of Khourn, 21 I. & N. Dec. 1041 (BIA 1997).  The conviction had been waived under INA § 212(c), but then the respondent committed a CMT and the government successfully argued that this was the second CMT, rendering the respondent deportable.  The BIA reviewed 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and found the offense was primarily criminal, not regulatory, and that sale of drugs is depraved and immoral conduct.

[74] Matter of Abreu-Semino, 12 I. & N. Dec. 775 (BIA 1968) (conviction for unlawful possession of LSD under 21 U.S.C. § § 331(q)(3) was not crime involving moral turpitude because intent was not an essential element of the offense).

[75] See § 21.4, supra.