Habeas Corpus Relief

Translated from the Latin to “produce the body,” habeas corpus is a legal protection that was written into the U.S. Constitution to safeguard citizens from governmental abuse of power and arbitrary state action. It is derived from the common law and commands that an individual who is in custody be presented. While both federal and state courts have the authority to hear habeas corpus petitions, it’s important to understand that habeas corpus is not the remedy itself — it is the legal procedure used to safeguard against indefinite detention without a valid reason. At Hegge & Confusione, our habeas corpus relief attorney team can thoroughly explain and walk you through this process.

What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that provides legal recourse for a person who seeks to challenge an unlawful detention or imprisonment. Specifically, it requests that the custodian of a person in custody bring them to court to make an inquiry about the lawfulness of their detention. This procedure allows a prisoner to dispute their imprisonment, appear for prosecution, or appear to testify.

What Can a Writ of Habeas Corpus Do?

Habeas corpus is typically used as a post-conviction remedy. The petition must be in writing and state the facts surrounding the imprisonment, the name of the custodian, and the legal grounds for the request. Importantly, there are two criteria under the federal statute for habeas corpus review: 1) The individual must be in custody at the time the petition is filed, and 2) The individual in government custody must have exhausted all state remedies before petitioning a federal court.

Depending on the facts of the case and the evidence produced, a judge may grant several types of relief after hearing a habeas corpus petition, including the following:

  • Ordering the individual’s release from prison
  • Reducing the individual’s prison sentence
  • Halting the illegal conditions of the individual’s confinement
  • Issuing a declaration of rights

Habeas corpus is not available in all circumstances — and it can come with certain limitations. There are stringent procedures associated with habeas corpus and in some cases, another remedy may be more appropriate. For example, if an individual is not challenging the fact that they are imprisoned, but rather, they are alleging abuse or mistreatment, a civil rights complaint would be the appropriate legal mechanism to use. Notably, individuals are usually not permitted to file repetitive petitions concerning the same issue.

What’s the Difference Between a Habeas Corpus Petition and a Criminal Appeal?

Habeas corpus is not the same as an appeal. A criminal defendant has the right to appeal their conviction or sentence to a higher court if a mistake was made by the trial court. The appeals court will then review the record and the ruling made by the lower court to determine whether the ruling was determined correctly. Habeas corpus is a separate mechanism that specifically challenges the fact that an individual is imprisoned. It can also be used if a direct appeal is unsuccessful.

Critically, in the event the trial court made a legal error during the criminal case, filing an appeal could potentially change the outcome. But the court will generally not consider new evidence on appeal. In contrast, with a writ of habeas corpus, an individual may be able to include new and additional evidence that was not previously considered by the court.

A writ of habeas corpus can be used to establish ineffective assistance of counsel, introduce evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, or prove actual innocence. An individual may also be able to raise an “involuntary plea” claim by using the writ of habeas corpus. This argument asserts that a trial lawyer didn’t advise the defendant regarding the consequences of pleading guilty — and had the defendant known about the ramifications, they would not have taken the plea.

Additionally, a writ of habeas corpus should not be confused with a pardon. When a writ of habeas corpus is filed, the imprisoned individual argues that the incarceration is unjust in that they did not commit the crime, or their rights were violated in some way during the court proceedings. A pardon simply erases a person’s criminal record — the individual does not argue that they did not commit the crime. While habeas corpus petitions are filed while a person is still incarcerated, a pardon can happen long after a sentence has already been served.

Contact an Experienced Habeas Corpus Relief Attorney

If you believe you have been unjustly incarcerated, you may be able to file a writ of habeas corpus. However, the process of petitioning for habeas corpus can be complex. It is vital to have the assistance of an experienced habeas corpus relief attorney to help ensure the best possible outcome in your case. The appellate attorneys at Hegge & Confusione, LLC can evaluate your case and discuss your best course of action. Contact us today for an assessment of your case.