If your job or desired job requires you to hold a professional license, you should be aware that 22 of the 29 Pennsylvania occupational licensing boards that issue a total of 255 types professional licenses require that you possess good moral character in order to receive and keep a license. In other words, you cannot have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. 

But what exactly constitutes moral turpitude? The dictionary defines it as “an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community,” and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has defined it as “an act which is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong.” 

Moral turpitude crime examples 

Crimes of moral turpitude can be either felonies or misdemeanors and in general involve some type of fraud, larceny or intent to harm. Examples include the following: 

  • Murder 
  • Theft 
  • Prostitution 
  • Blackmail and bribery 
  • Aggravated assault 
  • Abuse 

Some of Pennsylvania’s licensing boards also include such misdemeanors as DUI and simple assault. 

Current lawsuit 

As reported by The Intelligencer, the Institute for Justice recently sued both the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and the state Board of Cosmetology on behalf of a women whose application for licensure the Cosmetology Board denied on the grounds of failing to meet the Board’s good moral character standard. The plaintiff’s main contention is that the Board’s character standard is both unconstitutional and discriminatory. Between 2015 and 2018, the Board of Cosmetology denied 70 additional applicants the opportunity to take the licensing examinations, citing the same grounds. Keep in mind, however, that over 60 Pennsylvania professional licenses require you to have good moral character. 

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.