The phrase “a crime of moral turpitude” is so vague that it’s at once all-encompassing and somewhat meaningless.
That presents a huge problem for attorneys who’ve slipped up, made a mistake and now find themselves facing the California State Bar Court.
What one person considers a major offense and a sign that you’re unrepentant of your actions could be seen as relatively minor by someone else and not really worth taking away your license to practice law and your entire livelihood.
While crimes of moral turpitude can land you in the biggest legal fight of your life — the one over whether or not you can keep your license to practice — sometimes your explanation for your acts can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
What is a crime of moral turpitude?
Basically an act of “moral turpitude” is one that shows disregard for society, lawlessness, a vile nature or a willingness to go to calculated depths in order to satisfy base desires.
Why could the details of your act matter?
The reason behind your act is often carefully scrutinized by the Bar Court because there’s a general recognition that ordinary people will sometimes lose their self-control and sense of morality when they’re desperate.
For example, if you siphoned a few thousand dollars away from a very rich client to pay bills because a slump in business or a recent health problem had left you financially struggling, the Bar Court might be willing to treat the situation leniently — especially if you had a plan to pay back the funds before they were spotted as missing.
On the other hand, if you took extra settlement money from a lower-income, poorly-educated client to cover your gambling debts, the Bar Court isn’t going to give you much sympathy. There may be no second chance unless you are prepared to show that you’ve taken steps to aggressively manage your gambling addiction and repay your client (plus interest).
Don’t go through a Bar Court hearing without help. An attorney can help you with your situation as soon as you know that you’re heading that direction. Our firm has attorneys who are familiar with Administrative Law procedures and may be able to help.