Martinez v. Sessions

892 F.3d 655 (4th Cir. 2018)



To determine whether a state offense qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) for removal purposes, a court applies the now-familiar categorical approach, which looks to the elements of the offense rather than the conduct the alien engaged in when committing the offense. If all permutations of the conduct proscribed by the elements of the offense involve moral turpitude, then the offense categorically qualifies as a CIMT. But if those elements can include behavior that does not involve moral turpitude, the crime is not categorically one involving moral turpitude.


Thirty-five-year-old Maricela Martinez is a native of Mexico. She entered the country illegally 20 years ago. She is the mother of four children, all of whom are citizens of the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, Martinez was convicted three times in Maryland for petty theft. One conviction involved theft of less than $500 while the others involved thefts of less than $100 each.

After her third conviction, Martinez was arrested and detained by immigration officials, who sought to deport her because the convictions amounted to crimes involving moral turpitude ("CIMT"). Although Martinez initially conceded removability, she later obtained counsel and contended that the theft offenses did not qualify as CIMTs and that she was entitled to apply for cancellation of removal.

An immigration judge concluded that the theft convictions qualified as CIMTs and that Martinez therefore was not entitled to seek cancellation of removal. The BIA affirmed to conclude that the offenses were CIMTs. Martinez thereafter filed this petition for review.


Did the immigration judge and the BIA err in concluding that the theft convictions qualified as CIMTs?




The Court held that Maryland's consolidated theft statute does not categorically qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude for purposes of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). Petition for review was granted; decision was vacated and remanded.

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