The Writ of Habeas Corpus
What is the meaning and use of writ habeas corpus? A writ of habeas corpus is a court order to prison or jail to produce the prisoner to the court for the court to determine of the detention is legal. The term “writ of habeas corpus” is a latin phrase. It literally translates to “that you have the body.”
What Does the Writ of Habeas Corpus Challenge?
The writ of habeas corpus is used post-conviction to determine if the laws were applied correctly in determining their conviction and sentencing. It examines the following things:
- If there is sufficient basis for detention
- If the case should be removed to another court
- If the denial of bail or parole is lawful
- If there is a claim for double jeopardy
- If there are unlawful delays in the hearing or trial that cause the detainee to spend extra time imprisoned
- If there is a legal basis for or against extradition to a foreign country
A writ of habeas corpus is sometimes used in military law matters and immigration and deportation cases too.
How Does the Writ of Habeas Corpus Work?
A writ of habeas corpus functions as an inquiry into the grounds for detention. It is meant to prevent or reduce the occurrence of false imprisonment by requiring the authorities to give valid reasons for detaining the prisoner. When carried out successfully, the writ of habeas corpus provides immediate relief for unlawful detainment. Unless the authorities can provide sufficient legal grounds for detention, the prisoner will be released.
The writ of habeas corpus is a right provided by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It does not matter whether the prisoner is innocent or guilty; it only addresses whether or not detaining the prisoner in that facility, that manner, and/or for that amount of time is lawful. The writ of habeas corpus challenges the authority of the government to detain the person in the manner they are being detained.
The writ of habeas corpus is quite flexible as it needs to apply to a number of forms of detention and their procedures. However, it cannot be applied retroactively unless one of the two exceptions applies:
- A subsequent ruling or interpretation means that the criminal law that resulted in the defendant’s conviction does not apply to the defendant
- A subsequent ruling or interpretation gives a fundamental procedural right that was not provided to the defendant and would have impacted the conviction.
Those are two of the very few exceptions when a writ of habeas corpus can be applied retroactively to a conviction. Otherwise, a writ of habeas corpus can only be applied to the sentencing, not the conviction or charge.