Disbarred from Practice of Law for Crime of Moral Turpitude

Sex with a 12-Year-Old is a Crime of Moral Turpitude Per Se

Lawyers are, by definition, required to be ethical in their dealings with clients, adversaries and in their life outside the law. The best and most effective way for a lawyer to be disbarred is to be convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

In the Matter of: Justin Alan Torres, Respondent, A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 1003136), District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility, D.C. App. No. 19-BG-276, Board Docket No. 19-BD-027, Disc. Docket No. 2019-D037 (July 31, 2019) the District of Columbia court spent a great deal of time explaining what a crime of moral turpitude is although it should have been obvious since Torres was convicted of sexual conduct with a child under the age of 13.


Torres pleaded guilty, in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to multiple felony counts of gross sexual imposition.

Torres was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar on September 9, 2011. On November 29, 2018, he pleaded guilty to three counts of “gross sexual imposition” in violation Ohio Revised Code which provides that: “(A) No person shall have sexual contact with another, not the spouse of the offender; cause another, not the spouse of the offender, to have sexual contact with the offender; or cause two or more other persons to have sexual contact when any of the following applies: * * * (4) The other person, or one of the other persons, is less than thirteen years of age, whether or not the offender knows the age of that person.” (emphasis added)

On January 10, 2019, Respondent was sentenced to serve 36 months in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. On May 10, 2019, Disciplinary Counsel filed a statement with the Board recommending Respondent’s disbarment based on his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude per se.

In response, Disciplinary Counsel argues that a sex crime involving children aged twelve and under inherently involves moral turpitude because it is not reasonable to confuse such a young child with a consenting adult.


D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) provides for the mandatory disbarment of a member of the District of Columbia Bar convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. Once the Court determines that a particular crime involves moral turpitude per se, disbarment is the mandated sanction. If the Board determines that the offense does not involve moral turpitude per se, it refers the matter to a Hearing Committee to determine whether the facts underlying the respondent’s crime involve moral turpitude.

A crime involves moral turpitude if the act denounced by the statute offends the generally accepted moral code of mankind, if it involves baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow men or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man, or if it is contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.  The “idea of moral turpitude incorporates a revulsion of society toward conduct deeply offending the general moral sense of right and wrong.” In re McBride, 602 A.2d 626, 632-33 (D.C. 1992) (McBride II.)

Offenses that involve the touching, with lascivious intent, of the sexual organs of children under fifteen have been held to be crimes of moral turpitude per se when the offender knew the age of the victim, or was in a supervisory relationship with the victim such that knowledge of the victim’s age was presumed. The Ohio Statute, however, does not require the prosecution to prove that a defendant actually knew the victim’s age.

The court found that the answer here, as guided by the rule of reason, is clear. Torres was convicted of violating a statute that prohibits sexual misconduct with a child aged twelve or under. Thus, the Ohio Statute has an added requirement: a victim must be more than three years younger than the sixteen-year-old Ohio age of consent. That wide age gap ensures that an offender “should have known” that the molested child was incapable of consent. This is so, according to Ohio law, because the physical immaturity of a pre-puberty victim is not easily mistaken and engaging in sexual conduct with such a person indicates vicious behavior on the part of the offender.

A reasonable person would know that a child aged twelve or younger cannot consent to sexual contact. Although a twelve-year-old may look older than his or her chronological age, she will not think, talk or act like an adult. Victimizing such a child constitutes moral turpitude per se.

The Ohio Statute and the courts of that State have concluded that the touching of an erogenous zone of a child aged twelve or under for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person is criminal. Those who violate the Ohio Statute necessarily engage in behavior that constitutes moral turpitude per se.

The Board found that Respondent’s conviction involved moral turpitude per se.

Accordingly, the Board recommended that Respondent be disbarred.


Mr. Torres is lucky, he was only disbarred and sentenced to serve three years in prison for multiple acts of abuse of a per-pubescent minor. He may face danger in prison from the other prisoners but can use his legal knowledge and skill to protect himself. He should never be allowed in the future to represent a client or get near a child.

© 2019 – Barry Zalma

This article, and all of the blog posts on this site, digest and summarize cases published by courts of the various states and the United States.  The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, were condensed for ease of reading, and convey the opinions of the author regarding each case.

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant  specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 50 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Over the last 51 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.


About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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