What constitutes a crime of “moral turpitude”?

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What constitutes a crime of “moral turpitude”?

Recently, I applied for certification as a substitute teacher in MO. I was arrested and convicted (and I did disclose it) of a trespassing injury to property in CA 24 years ago as part of a non-violent political protest in which myself and a group of others chained their necks to a gate. The police cut the locks and disassembled the gate, but no injury was actually done to the gate. The state is claiming that this is a crime involving “moral turpitude.” I am gathering any documents I have to gain clearance.

Asked on August 14, 2011 Missouri

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It could be argued that trespass as part of a political protest is NOT a crime of moral turpitude.  You could also argue that since this occurred 24 years ago and if you have no other record since that this should not bar your employment as a substitute teacher.

The legal definition of moral turpitude is an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a person owes to others or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between one person and another.  

Moral turpitude is conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals.

As you can see from the legal definition, moral turpitude is rather vague and is determined based on a particular crime.  You could argue that the trespass as a political protest did  NOT involve baseness, vileness or depravity and therefore did NOT constitute moral turpitude. 


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