Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Partyka: assaulting a cop not a crime of moral turpitude

Filed 08/11/05, No. 04-2804
Partyka v. Atty Gen USA

The Third Circuit held that assaulting a police officer is not a crime of moral turpitude. What, you may ask, is a crime "of moral turpitude"? The answer is, well, it's hard to say. The BIA said it is "conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed other persons, either individually or to society in general" but, I ask, what the heck does that mean?!

The issue was critical because the immigrant was convicted within five years of entering the country and the maximum possible punishment could have been more than one year. For some odd reason, Congress did not care that his actual sentence was only 90 days of house detention. Someone should fix the law to make it less harsh.

Anyway, the minimum conduct that would qualify as a crime under that particular statute is negligent conduct against someone the person knows is an officer. The Third Circuit said a good working definition of crimes of moral turpitude is "whether the act is accompanied by a vicious motive or a corrupt mind." A reckless act can qualify if it is a serious crime that is committed recklessly. The Third Circuit ruled that it's possible the reckless act was not particularly horrible but could qualify as a conviction, so the statute does punish solely acts that involve moral turpitude.

Mr. Partyka avoided the final hurdle of the danger the conviction record indicated he was convicted under a worse portion of the statute. Fortunately, it was vague so his conviction did not make him deportable.

Judge Alito filed a dissent, because he puzzled about his view that the BIA is the final authority on the meaning of its own decisions, so he would have remanded it to the BIA which would have allowed another chance to deport the immigrant.


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