In the event that someone has been convicted of a federal offense, filing an appeal may not be their only opportunity to alter their circumstances. A number of appeals scenarios involve filing a legal action known as habeas corpus. Most people who are familiar with the term “habeas corpus” remember that Abraham Lincoln controversially suspended the Constitutional right to habeas corpus during the Civil War. However, this right remains relevant today, even if it is rarely discussed in broader American culture.
When a criminal defendant files a writ of habeas corpus, they must be taken before a judge prior to being imprisoned. This Constitutional right helps to safeguard against terms of imprisonment that are unlawful and/or indefinite.
Why file a writ of habeas corpus?
When translated from Latin, habeas corpus means “show me the body.” This effort helps to ensure that defendants are able to challenge custody that they believe to be unlawful. To effectively challenge a term of imprisonment imposed by a federal court, it must be shown that the detention is somehow in violation of federal or Constitutional law.
Once a writ has been filed, the court will likely hold a hearing so that both sides can argue and present evidence in support of their positions. The government will argue that there is a legitimate basis for detaining the defendant, and the defendant’s attorney will explain how their client’s rights have been violated. Under certain circumstances, a successful habeas corpus case could lead to a sentence reduction, release or other favorable outcomes.
It is worth noting that it is not easy to “win” a writ of habeas corpus case. This area of law, which is still relevant, is relatively archaic and can only be applied successfully under specific circumstances. As a result, having an experienced legal professional’s assistance can make or break someone’s attempt to exercise this fundamental right.