A “writ of habeas corpus” is a term you may be familiar with. While it may be a term you are familiar with, most do not understand the purpose of a writ of habeas corpus or how it can be used. We receive questions from clients and prospective clients all the time regarding the nature and purpose of writs of habeas corpus. Such as, “what is a writ of habeas corpus?” or “is a writ of habeas corpus the same as an appeal?” or “how likely is it to win a habeas corpus case?” In this blog, we look to answer these questions and provide a brief overview of writs of habeas corpus.
A writ of habeas corpus is a means for an individual to obtain release from unlawful confinement or custody. The purpose behind a writ of habeas corpus is to bring a person in custody before a court to investigate the cause of the confinement or custody. If said custody or confinement is unlawful, the individual is entitled to relief. The 7th Circuit has recognized that “the writ of habeas corpus is intended to provide a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems.” While writs of habeas corpus are most commonly used in the criminal context, habeas corpus proceedings are civil in nature, not criminal. This means that a writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to attack a conviction or sentence. Neither can a writ of habeas corpus be used to attack collateral mattes not directly affecting the custody or detention of a person.
Writs of habeas corpus are generally used in the context of criminal convictions; however, they are not limited to such application. Instead, the writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard of those held in violation of the law. In Indiana, every person whose liberty is restrained, under any pretense, may prosecute a writ of habeas corpus to investigate the cause of the restraint. If a court finds, after a hearing on a writ of habeas corpus, that a person is being illegally restrained or no legal cause is shown for the restraint, then a court is generally bound to set that person free.1 Every person is entitled to seek a writ of a habeas corpus, but the ultimate likelihood of success is going to depend on the specific facts of the case.
It is important to note that the above information is general in nature, and know that there are exceptions to almost every rule. Writs of habeas corpus are complex matters, oftentimes turning on the specific facts of each case. This area of practice is extremely technical, and obtaining skilled counsel is often key to navigating the complex waters involved. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle all types of law, be it civil or criminal, throughout Indiana. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.