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Is Domestic Violence a Crime of Moral Turpitude in California?


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Every year there are thousands of reported cases of domestic violence in California. Domestic violence is also sometimes called family violence or intimate partner violence. California Penal Code 13700 states that domestic violence is “abuse committed against an intimate partner.” Abuse happens when someone intentionally or recklessly uses or threatens to use physical force against an intimate partner. An intimate partner is a spouse, or someone with whom you have an intimate relationship.

What is a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

Moral turpitude is a term that describes behavior that is immoral, unethical, or wicked and departs from the normal standard of behavior. It is sometimes considered behavior that would be shocking to most upstanding citizens of a community. Crimes are generally categorized into those that involve moral turpitude and those that don’t. The law does not specifically define moral turpitude, although there are many examples of it in legal cases. Typically, the courts consider moral turpitude as behavior that is dishonest or vile or depraved conduct that would shock a reasonable person. 

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

The law does not specifically spell out crimes of moral turpitude. Through the years, the courts have ruled regarding cases which they ruled as crimes of moral turpitude. A few of these crimes include: 

  • Assault and aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Attempted lewd acts on a minor
  • Child abuse
  • Murder
  • Domestic violence against a spouse
  • Criminal threats
  • Possession of firearm by a felon

In order to be considered a crime of moral turpitude the offender must have intended to commit the crime. The crime is one that lacks morality. Crimes that occur due to mistakes, accidents, or poor judgment are not considered crimes of moral turpitude because the offender did not have corrupt intentions. 

Consequences for Crimes of Moral Turpitude

If the court rules that a crime is one of moral turpitude, a conviction could include some additional consequences. In addition to the penalties that apply to the original crime, a conviction could result in the deportation of an immigrant. A crime of moral turpitude conviction may allow the person to be impeached as a witness. The conduct can be used to show that the person is not trustworthy. The conviction of a crime of moral turpitude could result in consequences in your career, including the suspension of a professional license in some industries. 

It is important to note that while domestic violence against a spouse has been considered a crime of moral turpitude by the courts, domestic violence against someone else, other than a spouse, has been found not to be such a crime. Each situation is unique and therefore has different circumstances that may or may not define it as a crime of moral turpitude. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will work to defend these charges and protect you from a conviction. If you are facing domestic violence charges, you need a strong defense. Call our legal team at Strongest Defense at (805) 477-0070 to discuss the details of your case today.