The Ninth Circuit held that felony false imprisonment in violation of California Penal Code section 236/237 is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. This conclusion was virtually a foregone conclusion given the Ninth Circuit previously had found the more serious offense of simple kidnapping in violation of California Penal Code section 207(a) did not categorically involve moral turpitude.
The court noted the California appellate courts had upheld felony false imprisonment convictions under a "menace" theory in circumstances that did not fit the federal definition of moral turpitude. See People v. Islas, 147 Cal. Rptr. 3d 872, 875–82 (Ct. App. 2012) (two gang members convicted of false imprisonment by menace after hiding from police for about 15 minutes in an apartment rented by a mother and her children; conviction upheld even though the defendants did not brandish a weapon, did not act in a hostile manner, did not touch the woman or her family, did not issue any verbal threats, and, in fact, expressly told her that “they were not going to harm her or her children”).