Defining Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Criminal offenses may have adverse consequences for many professional licensees, whether they result in a conviction or deferred adjudication. The laws that govern various professions include “crimes of moral turpitude” as offenses that can lead to disciplinary proceedings affecting license holders. A professional license defense lawyer can assist you in defending your professional license when your criminal history endangers your career.

Defining Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude typically involve dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. These crimes also may, but are not required to, involve violence. Moral turpitude involves actions contrary to justice, honesty, or morality. 

Nonetheless, Texas law provides no list of crimes defined as crimes of moral turpitude. Some licensing boards may consider certain criminal offenses to qualify as crimes of moral turpitude, whereas others may not. As such, some licensing boards include “crimes of moral turpitude” as grounds for disciplinary action against license holders, and some boards designate specific criminal offenses as crimes of moral turpitude that could result in disciplinary action. 

Texas Occupations Code, Occupational Licenses, and Criminal Offenses

Tex. Occ. Code § 53.021 states that a licensing authority may suspend or revoke a license because the person has been convicted of an offense that directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the licensed occupation. As a result, each profession’s licensing board must decide what offenses directly relate to the profession. 

Under Tex. Occ. Code § 53.022, licensing authorities shall consider the following factors in determining whether certain offenses directly relate to the duties and responsibilities of the professions that they license:

  • the nature and seriousness of the crime;
  • the relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring a license to engage in the occupation;
  • the extent to which a license might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity of the same type as that in which the person previously had been involved;
  • the relationship of the crime to the ability or capacity required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the licensed occupation; and
  • any correlation between the elements of the crime and the duties and responsibilities of the licensed occupation.

Ultimately, many boards have opted to include crimes of moral turpitude as crimes that directly relate to the duties and responsibilities of the occupations they license and regulate.

Real Estate Sales Agents and Brokers

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) licenses and regulates real estate sales agents, real estate brokers, and various other real estate professionals. TREC Rules § 541.1 includes “offenses involving moral turpitude” as among those criminal offenses that “directly relate[s] to the duties and responsibilities of a real estate broker and sales agent because committing these offenses tends to demonstrate a person’s inability to represent the interest of another with honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity.”

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Certified Public Accountants

22 Tex. Admin. Code § 519.7(2) states that certain misdemeanor criminal offenses “evidence violations of law that involve integrity and directly relate to the duties and responsibilities involved in providing professional accounting services or professional accounting work.” As a result, certified public accountants (CPAs) may be subject to disciplinary action if convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for these offenses. These offenses include those that evidence moral turpitude, such as the following:

  • Public Lewdness;
  • Indecent Exposure;
  • Enticing a Child;
  • Improper Contact with Victim;
  • Abuse of Corpse;
  • Prostitution;
  • Promotion of Prostitution;
  • Obscene Display or Distribution;
  • Obscenity;
  • Sale, Distribution, or Display of Harmful Material to Minor; and
  • Employment Harmful to Children;

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Rule 8.04(a)(2) of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct provide that licensed attorney may be subject to discipline if they “commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” A “serious crime” involves any felony involving moral turpitude.

Physicians and Other Medical Professionals

22 Tex. Admin. Code § 190.8 states that the Texas Medical Board (TMB) may take disciplinary action against physicians and other medical professionals it regulates based on the commission of certain criminal offenses. Disciplinary action can occur based on a conviction or a form of deferred adjudication for any misdemeanor crime involving moral turpitude. This section provides that misdemeanors involving moral turpitude include those that: 

  • have been found by Texas state courts to be misdemeanors of moral turpitude;
  • involve dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, violence; or
  • reflect adversely on a licensee’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to practice under the scope of the person’s license.

Teachers and Other Educators

19 Tex. Ed. Code § 249.16 provides that the State Board of Education Certification (SBEC) of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) may take disciplinary action against teachers and other educators for the commission of certain crimes. The SBEC has determined that criminal offenses directly relate to the duties and responsibilities of the education profession if they evidence “a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of a student or minor, parent of a student, fellow employee, or professional colleague; interfere[s] with the orderly, efficient, or safe operation of a school district, campus, or activity; or indicate[s] impaired ability or misrepresentation of qualifications to perform the functions of an educator.” The criminal offenses outlined in this section include offenses involving moral turpitude.

We Will Represent Your Interests in Your Disciplinary Proceedings 

We know how important it is to continue working to achieve your career goals. The experienced professional license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP, will advocate on your behalf to help you protect your license and career. Together, we will work to put you in the best position possible to maintain your license and professional future. Call us at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.

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