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Criminal Law 101: The Habeas Corpus Petition Process Explained

If you or someone you know has been wrongly detained, you should consider filing a habeas corpus petition in court. Habeas corpus (translation: produce the body) is an important legal concept that safeguards individuals’ freedom against lawless actions of the state. It ensures that miscarriages within the justice system are identified and corrected.

The petition for habeas corpus is filed in court in response to unjust detention and/or imprisonment. Individuals can file this petition in court either for themselves or others. The petition must point out that a legal error was made in arriving at the decision to detain or imprison.

The Process of Habeas Corpus Explained

A petition of habeas corpus is filed when one wants to challenge the decision of the court that led to his or her imprisonment. The petition can also be filed by a parent that has been denied custody of a child by the court. Also, an individual who has been declared guilty of contempt of court by the judge can file a habeas corpus petition.

Also known as the ‘Great Writ’, the writ of habeas corpus is a court order that is addressed to an agency or a person such as a prison warden to deliver the defendant before the magistrate that has issued the order.   It provides a legal channel through which individual that has been wrongly charged and imprisoned can raise voices in the court.

The US and state constitutions include provisions that prevent the government or other institutions from unjustly imprisoning a person. They forbid the US government from suspending proceedings of habeas corpus except under special circumstances such as a war.

The procedures of Habeas Corpus include the following.

  • Preparing petition for the case
  • Filing the petition
  • Serving the petition
  • Examination of the petition by the court
  • Approval or disapproval of the writ
  • Hearing (if the writ is approved)
  • Appealing against the decision

Keep in mind that habeas corpus is a right that gives imprisoned individuals the right to challenge the legality of the court order. It ensures that individuals are not held in jail for a crime that they did not commit. In short, it safeguards individuals’ liberty and freedom against the government or other agencies.

If you are a prisoner who thinks that you have been wrongly imprisoned, you can request a writ of habeas corpus from a federal or state court. In such a case, getting counsel from a qualified criminal lawyer will greatly help in ensuring that the legal requirements are met when applying for it in court.


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