What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

SQ Attorneys

A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that demands that a public official deliver an imprisoned person to the court and show good cause for their detention. The writ allows a prisoner to challenge the legality of their confinement. Habeas corpus has roots in English common law. It translates to “you should have the body” in Latin.

Often, the court holds a hearing on the matter. The inmate and the government may present evidence during the hearing about whether a legal basis exists for jailing the person. The court may also issue and enforce subpoenas to obtain additional evidence.

The rules for filing a federal writ of habeas corpus are codified in 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2256. Generally, one cannot file a writ of habeas corpus unless they show the government has detained them. Additionally, a state prisoner cannot file a federal writ unless they exhaust all available state remedies. The federal court will likely dismiss the writ if the defendant fails to exhaust all available remedies.

There are several types of habeas relief available. Depending on what the evidence reveals, the judge may grant the inmate post-conviction relief such as: 1) An immediate release from prison, 2) A reduction of their sentence, 3) An order halting illegal conditions of confinement and/or 4) A declaration of rights

The type of habeas relief granted depends on the evidence presented during the habeas hearing.

Habeas corpus is different from the right of direct appeal. In a criminal appeal, defendants may challenge their criminal conviction or sentence. The appellate court reviews the district court’s rulings. The defendant may file another appeal to a higher court, such as their state’s supreme court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

A defendant may use the appeals process to challenge their lower court conviction for the following reasons, among others: 1) Prosecutorial misconduct at the trial court level, 2) They received the ineffective assistance of counsel during their trial 3) The trial judge committed an error of law, such as misinterpreting a federal law or the relevant case law, entitling them to a new trial 4) The prosecution failed to adhere to the federal or state code of criminal procedure.

Habeas corpus provides a separate avenue for challenging imprisonment. Typically, prisoners use it after their challenge to the court of appeals fails. Habeas corpus often serves as a last resort for inmates who insist that the government unjustly imprisoned them.

Strict procedures govern which petitions judges may consider. Rules generally bar inmates from repetitively filing petitions about the same matter. Both state and federal courts may consider habeas corpus petitions. Federal courts sometimes decide that a state unjustly imprisoned someone and order their release. However, Congress has imposed restrictions on federal courts’ authority to overrule state courts in this manner.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.

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