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An Overview Of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude In Virginia

Interviewer: What are some examples of crimes of moral turpitude for those who may not know?

Brian Geno: Well, the crimes involving moral turpitude would include things like theft crimes. So, petty larceny, grand larceny, embezzlement, that’s one area. Some drug crimes like simple possession of cocaine under the federal system or possession with intent to distribute, certain — category 3 or 4 or 5 crimes can be considered crimes involving moral turpitude.

Crimes of an Immoral Nature Excepting Aggravated Felonies or Fraud are Considered as Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Essentially crimes that you can essentially look at them through a lens of immorality like sex crimes which aren’t aggravated felonies or fraud crimes, those can be crimes involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude are always defined by cases rather than statutes. And so, finding cases and then exceptions to the cases makes the difference. It used to be that domestic assault was considered a crime involving moral turpitude but at least in Virginia, it has since then become not a crime involving moral turpitude all because of the cases. So, those are some of the big examples of it.

The Differences in Culture with Regard to Domestic Disputes Can Have an Impact on Immigration

Interviewer: Are differences with the culture in regards to domestic disputes an area where it becomes a little bit more difficult sometimes?

Brian Geno: Yes, it does. Because often times, people from other countries will have – as an example – less respect for women and so, to varying degrees, women are considered chattel or less than full rights. And so, in those countries, they have things like divorce laws and laws that are much more relaxed than here or perhaps abusing their spouse, those are considered different. And so, in this country, you can’t do that. And so if they do it, here, unlike in their country, they can then be charged with the crime involving moral turpitude. A perfect example of it was a client of mine who caught his wife in the act of having an affair and so, he slapped her and then he walked out. Well, in this country, that’s considered a domestic assault and you can get in trouble for that but in his country, a slap across the face of his wife would not have been considered a crime especially if he’d done it when he caught her in the act of cheating on him.

Immigrants Trying to Take Advantage of their Native Laws Often Run into Trouble in the US

So, it made a difference for his case. Now, she knew about those exceptions as well and so, she was able to take advantage of those. She was not my client. And so, it was strange that my position was to try to help him to not suffer the consequences of what is otherwise a crime. It could be serious like an assault. So, that’s all because of cultural differences. Many Middle Eastern countries try very hard to use Sharia Law and those definitely treat women differently. They treat property rights differently, they treat religious rights differently and you don’t have codified statutes like we have that’s religious law and so, when people are, over here, trying to take advantage of those cultural laws or religious laws, they run into problems.

For Immigration Purposes a Plea and a Conviction are Considered the Same

Interviewer: What about a plea? I mean when we talking about a plea, what significance does a plea hold?

Brian Geno: For immigration purposes, a plea and a conviction are considered the same thing. If you’re convicted or you plea, it’s the same. But under the immigration law, they have — if you end your case not by a plea or by a conviction but by, say, a differed disposition, they still consider it a conviction. So, it’s even, you know, in my mind, one step less than a plea to a crime; it’s an actual dismissal of a crime that is considered a conviction under the immigration law. Immigration law, they define a conviction as the case didn’t end with an acquittal, didn’t end with the government stopping its case and the court imposed some kind of punishment. That’s considered a conviction whether it’s by plea or by deal or by a trial.