Crimes of moral turpitude are notoriously vague and difficult to define. Nevertheless, they are regularly used to determine the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. For example, a crime of moral turpitude can cause the defendant to get deported after a conviction.
Crimes of moral turpitude matter for U.S. citizens, too. They can face some serious professional consequences of a conviction of one of these crimes, especially if they need a professional license or certification to work in their field.
What is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?
A crime of moral turpitude is a criminal offense that involves knowing or intentional conduct that shows dishonesty or a lack of a moral character. Courts in Pennsylvania have not listed all of the potential offenses that fall under the umbrella of moral turpitude. Instead, they have singled out individual elements of crimes that can amount to moral turpitude. These include:
They also require that the defendant act intentionally, or at least with the knowledge that what they were doing was wrong.
While moral turpitude hinges on the elements of a crime, courts in Pennsylvania have decided that the following crimes tended to show moral turpitude:
Many Professional Certifications Forbid Crimes of Moral Turpitude
People who are convicted of a criminal offense will have to deal with the fines, jail time, and any probationary period or other penalty that gets ordered by the court.
However, collateral consequences of a conviction are penalties that come from private citizens or businesses, rather than courts or the state. One of those collateral consequences is when a professional certifying or licensing board demands that all of its members have a “good moral character” or explicitly deny certifications to anyone who has committed a crime of moral turpitude.
Requirements like these are nearly ubiquitous. Only a few of the examples of certifications and licenses that can be denied because of a prior conviction for a crime of moral turpitude are:
- Nursing certifications provided by the Board of Nursing
- A medical license under Pennsylvania's Medical Practice Act
- A car salesman's license provided under the Board of Vehicles Act
Even when these rules are not completely binding and the certifying boards have the discretion to overrule them, the result is usually the same because certifying boards can feel like they could be held liable if something were to go wrong, in the future.
These requirements are a big reason why people who have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude – even one over a decade ago – can have a tough time finding stable employment.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
The costs of a criminal conviction do not always end once the fines have been paid and the jail time served. This is especially true when the crime involved an element of moral turpitude.