Passing A Bad Check Can Lead to
by Atty. Reuben S. Seguritan
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that an alien convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct is removable from the United States. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) defines a “crime involving moral turpitude” as one which is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.
Passing a bad check does not seem to be a serious offense. However, if the person who passes the bad check is an alien or a lawful permanent resident in the United States, he can be removed upon conviction as stated in the INA.
In a recent case decided by the US Court of Appeals in 2019, a question arose as to whether the conviction of passing a bad check by a Missouri court constituted a conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, and hence, would warrant the removal of the convicted person. In 2017 in Missouri, Dolic was convicted of 3 counts of receiving stolen property and 4 counts of passing a bad check. At the time of her conviction Dolic was a lawful permanent resident in the US.
After her conviction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged Dolic with removal from the United States. Dolic filed a motion to terminate the removal proceedings and alleged that the DHS had not demonstrated that her conviction for the crimes of receiving stolen property and passing bad checks qualified as crimes involving moral turpitude. The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied Dolic’s petition and stated that Dolic’s convictions were for crimes involving moral turpitude. The BIA affirmed when Dolic appealed the IJ’s decision.
In Dolic’s appeal before the US Court of Appeals, she raised the question of whether her convictions qualified as a crime involving moral turpitude. The Court of Appeals looked at Missouri’s criminal statute and the elements of the crime of passing a bad check. Missouri law states:
A person commits the offense of passing a bad check when he or she: (1) With the purpose to defraud,…passes a check…knowing that it will not be paid by the drawee, or that there is no such drawee; or (2) …passes a check…knowing that there are insufficient funds in or on deposit with that account for the payment of such check…in full …upon such funds then outstanding, or that there is no such account or no drawee and fails to pay the check…within ten days after receiving actual notice in writing that it has not been paid because of insufficient funds or credit with the drawee or because there is no such drawee.
The Court of Appeals noted that the crime of passing a bad check is proven by evidence establishing that an accused passed a check with the purpose to defraud, knowing it would not be paid by the drawee and that the evidence is sufficient to establish those elements. This means that the conviction for passing a bad check was a crime involving moral turpitude.
The Court of Appeals then looked at the charging documents of Dolic for her convictions and saw that the language included the element “with the purpose to defraud.”
The Court of Appeals concluded that the conviction of Dolic for passing the bad checks qualified as crimes involving moral turpitude and denied Dolic’s petition.
This case is important because it highlights how a lawful permanent resident can be removed from the United States for crimes that are common and not as heinous as murder or homicide. Lawful permanent residents and aliens with visas in the United States must be careful and always mindful to act in accordance with law in all of their dealings to make sure they are not removed.