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Understanding Writs of Habeas Corpus

The Collin County Law Group April 13, 2020

Inmates in Texas are allowed to appeal their sentences or convictions to a higher court. If they exhaust their appeals, they can challenge their sentences or convictions with a habeas corpus petition. This is generally viewed as a last resort for inmates once they have exhausted their appeals.

A writ of habeas corpus is an order from a court to an official to produce an inmate. The inmate or an attorney acting on the inmate’s behalf can then present evidence at a hearing showing why his or her sentence or confinement is unjust. After hearing the evidence, the court may give relief to the inmate. Some of the types of relief that the court might order include a sentence reduction, a release from confinement, a declaration of the inmate’s rights, or an order for the prison to correct illegal confinement conditions.

Habeas corpus petitions are not the same thing as direct appeals. After an inmate is convicted of an offense, he or she has the right to file a direct appeal. A habeas corpus petition is generally only filed after the inmate has exhausted his or her appeals. A writ of habeas corpus is not available in every case, and there are limits placed on when the petitions can be filed.

Someone who believes they have been convicted without sufficient evidence or illegally detained may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney about their rights. A lawyer might review the procedural and factual history of the case and provide an honest assessment of whether the conviction is likely to stand. Legal counsel could also assist in filing appeals. If the inmate has exhausted their appeals, the lawyer could file a petition for habeas corpus as long as valid grounds appear to exist.