Any conversation about civil liberty and constitutional law is incomplete without discussing the concept of habeas corpus. This Latin term means “you have the body,” but what does it mean in terms of the law, and why is it important? Read on to know the answers to these questions and more.
Habeas corpus is a common-law writ issued by the court, commanding a public official to produce a person in custody or restrained before the court. The principle behind the writ is that no person should be confined in prison or restrained before being presented to the court and without following the due process of law. It is the court’s job to decide if there is a valid reason to detain the person.
While not much is known about the origin of the concept, historians believe it may have been established during King Charles I’s reign in the 17th century. It was likely intended to make sure Catholics were not illegally imprisoned in the lower courts. The writ of habeas corpus was established as a statute in the United States through the Judiciary Act of 1789.
A writ of habeas corpus can be filed by the confined or restrained individual or someone on their behalf. The court can demand the public official deliver the individual before to court and determine if such confinement is legal.
An individual in jail and unable to make bond has the right to file habeas corpus. Sometimes people who have made a bail pretrial but are subject to bond conditions like driving restrictions or curfew also have the right to file a writ. If a person has pleaded guilty in a plea bargain and has received a suspended probation sentence with specific conditions, it is also restricted.
Today, the habeas corpus writ is mostly used for post-conviction proceedings by state and federal prisoners, challenging the application of federal laws used during a judicial proceeding. It is also used to challenge immigration and deportation cases, military detentions, and convictions in a military court.
A 1992 Supreme Court ruling hailed the writ as a “fundamental instrument that safeguarded individual freedom.” It protects citizens from arbitrary and unlawful state action. It is primarily a writ of inquiry that tests reasons for confinement and restraint and orders immediate release if there is no sufficient legal reason for such confinement.
But it does not examine if the petitioner is guilty or innocent. Instead, the writ restricts its reach to reviewing the correctness of the public official’s decision to detain the person.
If you plan a file a habeas corpus petition for yourself or on behalf of someone else, you need representation from skilled appellate attorneys. We have the experience to help you.
Call 888-233-8895 to speak to a federal appeal lawyer for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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