this article may be weighted too heavily toward only one aspect of its subject. (july 2011)
||look up moral turpitude in wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
moral turpitude is a legal concept in the united states and prior to 1976, canada, that refers to "an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community". this term appears in u.s. immigration law beginning in the 19th century.
the concept of "moral turpitude" might escape precise definition, but it has been described as an "act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."
the classification of a crime or other conduct as constituting moral turpitude has significance in several areas of law. first, prior conviction of a crime of moral turpitude (or in some jurisdictions, "moral turpitude conduct", even without a conviction) is considered to have a bearing on the honesty of a witness and might be used for purposes of the impeachment of witnesses. second, offenses involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as teaching credentials or denial of application for public notary  licenses to practice law, or other licensed profession. third, the concept is relevant in contract law since employment contracts and sponsorship agreements often contain a moral turpitude clause which allow the sponsor to terminate a contract without penalty if the employee or sponsored party commits an act of moral turpitude - what sort of acts constitute "moral turpitude" can vary greatly depending on the situation and the exact terms of the contract, but the clause is often invoked in cases involving clearly non-criminal behavior and/or allegations for which there is insufficient evidence for a conviction (assuming the alleged act is even a criminal offence). fourth, this concept is of great importance for immigration purposes in the united states, canada (prior to 1976), and some other countries, since offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the u.s.