Friday, September 14, 2007

Moral Turpitude

Any law student should be familiar with that phrase. Many of them (such as I) have even been asked, "what is and isn't moral turpitude?" This question leads to a lot of "uhhs" and "umms" and then some answer about sliding scales and degrees of moral turpitude.

Fortunately, we no longer have to guess at where the line is between a regular crime and a crime of Moral Turpitude. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has been so kind as to answer the question for us. Apparently the difference lies in drunk driving. You see, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, driving while intoxicated is not a crime of Moral Turpitude, but driving while intoxicated without a driver's license is.

Judge Callahan explained:
driving while intoxicated is despicable, and when coupled with the knowledge that one has been specifically forbidden to drive, it becomes 'an act of baseness, violence or depravity in the private and social duties which a person shows to a fellowman or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty.
Simple, no? Of course, one might argue that it's mere semantics. Because it doesn't sound from the definition that driving without a license is a crime of moral turpitude, just driving drunk.

So is it moral turpitude? Let's compare. Moral turpitude: Fraud, Murder, Child Abuse
Not Moral turpitude - malicious mischief, indecency, battery, assault, money laundering... (these lists from the dissent)

Is it right to draw the line at driving while intoxicated with no license? Or was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals getting a little too fancy with semantics?

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