moral turpitude

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moral turpitude (uncountable)

  1. depravity
  2. (law) Any base or vile conduct, contrary to accepted morals, that sometimes accompanies a crime
    • 1836, The Punishment of Death: A Selection of Articles from the Morning Herald
      Here we see that both Lord TENTERDEN and Lord WYNFORD apply the test of moral turpitude to crime when considering the degree of punishment that ought to be annexed to it.
    • 1959, David H. Kleiman, "Tax Evasion and Moral Turpitude", 49 Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 145 at 146
      In their efforts to achieve a satisfactory definition of moral turpitude, the courts have been faced with the problem of arriving at a definition that is restrictive enough to facilitate application to a particular fact situation and yet not so broad as to distort the statutory intent. In this context moral turpitude is generally defined as a base or vile act that violates the accepted social relationship among men. This definition, however, is not completely satisfactory, and the courts generally base their decision upon the fact situation involved in the particular case. Moreover, this procedure has not been conductive to obtaining uniformity among the various jurisdictions.
    • 1988, John T. Burnett, "Attorney Discipline under DR 1-102(A)(3): Imposing Sanctions Absent a Finding of Moral Turpitude", (1988) 13 Journal of the Legal Profession 245
      In characterizing moral turpitude, courts have consistently returned to themes traditionally associated with the concept of immorality. Typically included offenses are fraud, deceit, dishonesty, misrepresentation for the purpose of financial gain, and corruption, as well as offenses involving sexual misconduct and murder. In addition, many courts require a finding of knowledge or intent. However, the rationales which courts use to reach a finding of moral turpitude vary among the jurisdictions.
    • 1998, Charles Jeszeck, Child Labor in Agriculture
      In fact, one view expressed at the time was that work on the farm was free from the moral turpitude of city sweatshops and that farm labor taught children valuable lessons and skills.
    • 1996, Katherine Patterson, Lyddie
      When Mr. Marsden, the mill's overseer, tells the superintendent of the factory that Lyddie did not have moral turpitude. (Book set in the 1800's during the time of the mills and Industrial Revolution)

Usage notes[edit]

There is no strict legal definition of moral turpitude, and it can be interpreted in any number of ways. Even the legal and otherwise acceptable behavior can be interpreted as a moral turpitude if some party would desire so in order, for example, to get out of the contract.