Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 21.14 3. Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Skip to § 21.

For more text, click "Next Page>"

Some drug offenses are considered crimes involving moral turpitude, which can trigger deportation or inadmissibility.  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.[111]  A simple possessory offense or its equivalent should not trigger deportation as a crime of moral turpitude.[112] The decisions that determine whether a controlled substances offense is a crime of moral turpitude turn upon whether the offense may be considered criminal or regulatory and upon the intent of the perpetrator.[113]

[111] Matter of Khourn, 21 I. & N. Dec. 1041 (BIA 1997) (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) is primarily criminal, not regulatory; sale of drugs is depraved and immoral conduct).  But see Matter of Abreu-Semino, 12 I. & N. Dec. 775 (BIA 1968) (conviction for distribution of cocaine under 21 U.S.C. § 331(q)(2) was not a CMT where the statute was primarily regulatory and did not require intent).

[112] 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).  See also Hampton v. Wong Ging, 299 F. 289, 290 (9th Cir. 1924) (possession conviction under the Narcotic Act was not a crime of moral turpitude); Alexander v. Exxon Co., 949 F. Supp. 1248 (M.D.N.C. 1996).  But see Portaluppi v. Shell Oil Co., 684 F. Supp. 900, 904 (E.D. Va. 1988) (simple possession of cocaine a CMT).

[113] See Chapter 20, supra.