Lee & Garasia, LLC
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“When it comes to immigration, I go to Paris and Angie–and trust me, I know a lot of lawyers all over the world.”–Renzo Gracie, Brazilian Jiujitsu and MMA Legend 
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New Jersey Criminal Offenses That Raise Deportability Issues | Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

The term of Crime Involving Moral Turpitude is a legal term of art with unfortunately no fixed definition. Whether a criminal offense is or is not a “CIMT” is critical to a foreign national because it raises issues of inadmissibility and deportability. Generally speaking, a CIMT is characterized by conduct in which there is a knowing and purposeful intent to do wrong. The Board of Immigration Appeals, in one case, refers to it as “conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” Matter of Danesh, 19 I & N Dec. 669, 670 (BIA 1988).

In looking to identify and determine whether an offense constitutes a crime of moral turpitude, a “crimmigration lawyer”-an immigration lawyer thoroughly familiar with criminal law-will examine the federal generic definition of the crime and compare it to the state statute, parsing each element. The Supreme Court’s decision in Mathis v. United States, 579 U.S. ___ (2016) further underscores the importance of a proper analysis, overruling many adverse court rulings and opening the door for defense practitioners to reevaluate crimes that were erroneously classified as CIMTs.

While identifying crimes involving moral turpitude is best done with the expert assistance and knowledge of counsel, foreign nationals need to be cognizant of the type of offenses that the Department of Homeland Security will ordinarily target. A survey of both USCIS and Department of State policy manuals reflect categorization into some general categories:

Crimes Against a Person

Criminal intent or recklessness is normally an element of a crime against a person that will have immigration consequences. Typical examples of crimes against people in New Jersey that may involve moral turpitude include

  • Murder, NJSA 2C:11-1
  • Voluntary Manslaughter, NJSA 2C:11-4
  • Rape, NJSA 2C:14-2
  • Kidnapping, NJSA 2C:13-1
  • Robbery, NJSA 2C:15-1
  • Assault, NJSA 2C:12-1a
  • Assault by Auto, NJSA 2C:12-1c
  • Aggravated Assault, NJSA 2C:12-1b
  • Crimes of Domestic Violence
  • DWI, 39:4-50
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident, 39:4-129
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, 2C:12-1.1
  • Stalking, NJSA 2C:12-10

Crimes Against Property

Criminal offenses that involve fraud as well as the intent to permanently deprive often implicate moral turpitude. Typical examples of crimes against property in New Jersey that may trigger immigration consequences include:

  • Theft, NJSA 2C:20-3, NJSA 2C:20-4
  • Theft of Services, NJSA 2C:20-8
  • Shoplifting, NJSA 2C:20-11
  • Passing Bad Checks, NJSA 2C:21-5
  • Burglary, 2C:18-2
  • Arson, NJSA 2C:17-1
  • Forgery, NJSA 2C:21-1
  • Offenses Involving False Government Documents, NJSA 2C:21-2.1
  • Receiving Stolen Property, 2C:20-7

Sexual and Family Crimes

Foreign nationals should be especially concerned if charged with any crime of a sexual nature or involving a family relationship. Some examples of crimes in New Jersey that may be associated with moral turpitude include

  • Rape, NJSA 2C:14-2
  • Criminal Sexual Contact, NJSA 2C:14-3
  • Endangering the Welfare of a Child, NJSA 2C:24-4
  • Incest, NJSA 2C:24-2
  • Lewdness, NJSA 2C:14-4
  • Possession of Child Pornography, NJSA 2C:24-4
  • Prostitution, NJSA 2C:34-1

Crimes Against the Authority of the Government

Typical examples of crimes against the government that may involve moral turpitude include

  • Tax evasion
  • Perjury, NJSA 2C:28-1
  • Obstruction of Administration of Law or Governmental Function, NJSA 2C:29-1
  • Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, NJSA 2C:29-3
  • Bribery, NJSA 2C:27-2
  • Insurance fraud, NJSA 2C:21-4.6

The above is neither an exhaustive nor definitive list of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude in New Jersey. Whether any of the above listed crimes is or is not a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude requires a careful survey of case law, statutory interpretation, and practical experience in the field. One should not assume by the title of the crime or even the specific conduct involved that the offense in question is a CIMT. If you are not a US Citizen and have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a criminal offense, you should seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer to understand the potential consequences on your status.