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Habeas Corpus

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What Is Habeas Corpus?

Habeas Corpus is a Latin phrase, roughly meaning “you should have the body.” The phrase refers to a legal principle that originated in the middle ages in England. Habeas corpus allows anyone imprisoned by the government to challenge his or her detention as unlawful.

How Is a Writ of Habeas Corpus Made?

Habeas corpus requires the official responsible for the detention, usually a prison warden, to show that there is authority and legal cause to detain the applicant. As it is currently understood, almost anyone in prison can file a writ of habeas corpus in a state or federal court, alleging that their detention is unlawful under the constitution or laws of their state, or the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.

What Time Period Does a Detainee Have to File a Writ?

Recent federal laws have made it much more difficult to file a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, there is a one-year statute of limitations for filing a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. It also requires federal courts, on appeal, to give far more deference to the decisions of lower courts in the same matter. The United States Constitution allows the right of habeas corpus to be suspended when “in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” This power has only been specifically invoked during the Civil War.

Should I Consult an Attorney to File a Habeas Petition?

If you feel that you are being unlawfully detained, a criminal attorney can help evaluate your case and file a writ on your behalf.


Photo of page author Gabrielle Hollingsworth

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-31-2018 12:45 AM PDT

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