What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

Writ of Habeas CorpusYou’d be surprised how many individuals are unlawfully detained around the world. While we cannot speak about what happens in other countries, the United States unlawfully detains its citizens without formal charges being imposed for reasons we can only imagine – and for time frames that are unspeakable.

An oft used court motion, the almighty writ of habeas corpus provides remedy for those confined to county jails or state prisons, and may either compel prosecution to finally charge you, or release you altogether. Let’s explore these written appeals.

What the Writ Accomplishes

Dubbed the “The hallmark of United States judicial process”, the Great Writ was included into Constitutional law so some measure of checks and balances on U.S. Courts could be enabled. It provides imprisoned persons an important tool other countries that wrongfully imprison people don’t have: a means for commoners to force court dates and compel someone to explain why detainment is necessary when no charges were brought about.

Because the Great Writ is the strongest in our judicial system, judges aren’t willing to hand them out like bail requests. In fact, numbers of approved habeas petitions are rather low. One must fill out an application, in fact, to get their petition heard. Defendants seeking relief under this court initiated process will finally be “produced” in court upon the successful completion of an application, structured to fit state courts’ judicial process.

If granted, imprisoned individuals will receive either a rights declaration, a written command that illegal detainment cease, reduction in time spent behind bars, or unconditional release altogether. Any court costs stemming from these writs, if they apply, could be waived by filing in forma pauperis (as a poor person).

Why They’re Filed

Appeals and writs are often misconstrued. Whereas appeals basically argue motions and sentences, writs argue ethics and judicial processes. When defendants have been taken into custody and not produced before courts within ‘x’ number of days, or are detained for months or years without being charged, limited legal remedies exist to help the uncharged individual. Therefore, as a last-ditch effort, prisoners will execute an application for habeas corpus pleading their case.

In certain situations, a habeas writ can produce proof prison conditions are too poor to handle. Although these writs are more than likely rarer in frequency since prisons have IA (Internal Affairs) who handle these things, it’s worth noting a writ of this magnitude is possible.

You can view what formal habeas corpus petitions look like by seeing a live copy at the U.S. Courts site. Note these forms may update anytime, so check back often.

Does Representation affect a writ’s outcome?

Those considered indigent, or without financial resources to adequately raise an amicable defense, will be examined in open court and, provided the income requirements are met, will be appointed public defenders in writ hearings (except for mandamus writs, which simply push appellate processes back to lower courts from high courts) if merited.

Historically speaking, public defenders tend to get thousands of cases per year, and attempt for the quickest resolve possible since the state pays the law firm for each indigent case.  Because of excessively high volume of cases, many wrongfully detained citizens receive subpar legal assistance which results in poor bargaining with District attorneys or judges. Egregious case errors and extended jail time are end results of limited criminal defense.

If unsure what writs apply to your individual situation, don’t battle the courts alone. Find an astute Arizona criminal attorney capable of filing your writ in absentia (in your absence), and have no problem seeing that you are properly served and transported to court dates.

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