Legal Question in Native American Law in Arizona

Law of moral turpitude -- shoplifting

Due to a revised constitution, many changes have transpired in the small Indian community that I am enrolled in. One change is that Members of the Tribal Council must never have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of moral turpitude. Crimes listed are; murder,embezzlement, forgery, misappropriation of funds, theft (and a couple of others). The Tribal Council Secretary was elected and voted in unanimously by the voters. However, after the election she received a letter discrediting her because the election committee said that she had been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. Shoplifting -- some 13 years prior. I think that there is a (legal) difference between theft and shoplifting. I would like a professional's opinion.

Asked on 2/16/00, 4:47 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Charles T. Brandel, Jr. Center for Indian law

Re: Law of moral turpitude -- shoplifting

Moral Turpitude is defined as "The act of baseness, vileness, or the depravity in private and social duties which man owes his fellow man, or society in general....Act or behaviour that gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of community and is a morally culpable quality held to be present in some criminal offenses as distinguished from others... I don't think "shoplifting" done 13 years ago, and no other occurences would rise to the level of a "behavior that GRAVELY violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of the community". Welcome to politics and the issues of who's who in the tribal government, (i.e. last name, clan affiliation etc). Unfortunate but true. This is not legal advise, just and opinion, but this is a "witch hunt".

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Answered on 2/22/00, 9:37 pm

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