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How “Crime of Moral Turpitude” is Defined

October 21, 2021
Est read time: 4 minutes

Part one of a two-part series.

Read Part Two of the Series.

If you are a licensed Florida insurance agent or adjuster, or if you’re looking to become licensed, you may have heard of the terms “moral turpitude” or “crime of moral turpitude.” It’s not exactly common vernacular, but whether a crime is one of moral turpitude can have a big impact on your license or license application.

In part one of this two-part series, we’re going to attempt to define “moral turpitude.” In part two, we’ll discuss how a crime of moral turpitude could impact you, your license, or your license application.

How do the Florida courts define moral turpitude?

The Florida Supreme Court has given the following as a definition of moral turpitude:

“Moral turpitude involves the idea of inherent baseness or depravity in the private social relations or duties owed by man to man or by man to society. It has also been defined as anything done contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals.”

In State ex rel. Tullidge v. Hollingsworth, 108 Fla. 607, 611, 146 So. 660, 661 (Fla. 1933)

As you can see, it’s a very broad definition, and arguably, any crime could be one of moral turpitude!

A better way to determine what the courts may or may not consider a crime of moral turpitude is to look at example cases. Note that in these cases, the licensees involved are not necessarily insurance agents or adjusters, but it is still valuable to see how courts define moral turpitude in these situations. 

Moral Turpitude Cases

  • In the case, Cirnigliaro v. Florida Police Standards and Training Commission, Mr. Cirnigliaro, a former bank manager, was convicted of a misdemeanor banking crime. He allegedly received $900 worth of improper kickbacks from a friend who was referring loan applicants to his bank. The court found that, although this was a misdemeanor, it was a crime of moral turpitude.
  • In the case of Winkelman v. Department of Banking and Finance, the court said that Mr. Winkelman’s felony conviction of assisting in the preparation of a false income tax return is a crime involving moral turpitude.
  • In Bruner v. Board of Real Estate, Ms. Bruner had pleaded guilty to grand theft, with adjudication withheld. The court found that grand theft is a crime of moral turpitude. The fact that adjudication was withheld was not a factor.
  • As a counter-example, there is the case of Florida Bar v. Davis. In this case, Mr. Davis was convicted of issuing worthless checks. However, Mr. Davis argued that while he did know that his accounts had insufficient funds, he was keeping track of the owed amounts so that he could make sufficient deposits in his account. He did not intend to defraud anyone. The court stated:

“Certainly, such conduct is violative of the law and is contrary to honesty, justice and good morals. But where there is no intent to defraud, as is the case here, the act itself is not so base as to fall into the category of illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.”

Through these cases, we learn that when a conviction involves intent to get money through theft or dishonesty (even a small amount), or when it involves lying on an official document, a Florida court is more likely to consider it a crime of moral turpitude. However, we also have an example of a crime involving money but not intent to defraud, the court found that it was not a crime of moral turpitude. As the Florida Supreme Court stated in the Tullidge case cited above:

“Intentional crimes for financial gain that victimize another, or others have been consistently deemed crimes involving moral turpitude, as they offend the duties owed by man to man or by man to society, and are contrary to justice, honesty, principle and good morals.”

How does the Florida Department of Financial Services define moral turpitude?

The Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) is the agency that grants and disciplines insurance licenses. While DFS does not give us a definition for “crimes of moral turpitude,” on its website is a list of crimes that it considers to be moral turpitude crimes. Note that this list does not include every possible crime that DFS may consider to be a crime of moral turpitude.

  • Abuse of Elderly Person
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Aggravated Fleeing and Eluding (High Speed or Demonstrating Wanton Disregard)
  • Aggravated Stalking
  • Any Capital Felony
  • Any Felony Directly Related to Financial Services Business
  • Any First-Degree Felony
  • Arson
  • Battery on Law Enforcement Officer (Involving Intentional Bodily Injury)
  • Bomb Threat, Placing a Bomb
  • Breaking and Entering
  • Bribery
  • Burglary (Depending on Circumstances) / Burglary Of A Home
  • Child Abuse
  • Child Molestation
  • Counterfeiting
  • Dealing In Stolen Property
  • Embezzlement
  • Escape
  • Extortion
  • False Statement
  • Forgery / Uttering a Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Grand Larceny
  • Grand Theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injuries
  • Manslaughter
  • Money Laundering
  • Murder
  • Passing Worthless Bank Check (More Than $500)
  • Perjury
  • Possession Of Drugs with Intent to Sell/Deliver/Etc.
  • Rape
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Resisting Arrest/Officer with Violence
  • Robbery
  • Sale Of Unregistered Securities
  • Sexual Battery / Sodomy
  • Smuggle Contraband-Introduce into Detention Facility
  • Tampering With Evidence
  • Tax Evasion
  • Theft/Larceny
  • Transmission of Wagering Information in Interstate and Foreign Commerce

In addition to the list above, DFS also provides a list of crimes that it does not consider to be crimes of moral turpitude.

  • Battery On Law Enforcement Officer (not involving intentional bodily injury)
  • Burglary (depending on circumstances)
  • Illegally Carrying a Concealed Weapon
  • Child Neglect
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Domestic Violence
  • Driving Under Influence/Driving While Intoxicated
  • Driving While License Suspended/Revoked
  • Felony Battery
  • Fleeing And Eluding
  • Passing Worthless Bank Check – ($500 or less)
  • Possession of Drugs
  • Possession of Firearm by Ex-Felon
  • Resisting Arrest/Officer Without Violence
  • Sale of Fireworks
  • Solicitation of Prostitution
  • Trespassing
  • Vehicular Homicide

Both lists can help you understand whether your conviction may be a crime of moral turpitude. However, every situation is unique. As we saw in the Davis case, sometimes there are specific circumstances that can help you argue that your conviction is not a crime of moral turpitude.

It’s always a good idea to consult an experienced attorney if you have questions regarding your license.

Case Sources Cited:

  • Cirnigliaro v. Fla. Police Stds. & Training Comm’n, 409 So. 2d 80 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982)
  • Winkelman v. Dep’t of Bank. & Fin., 537 So. 2d 591 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988)
  • Bruner v. Bd. of Real Estate, Dep’t of Prof’l Reg., 399 So. 2d 4 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981)
  • Florida Bar v. Davis, 361 So. 2d 159, 162 (Fla. 1978)

Have Questions? Let's Talk

Have questions about your health care license? Contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong at 850-877-7776 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other licensed professionals statewide. 

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