Writ of Habeas Corpus and How They Can Help

The Writ of Habeas Corpus protects prison inmates from false imprisonment to ensure people are not thrown into jail unlawfully. Today, it is a highly effective post-conviction tool that can be used by inmates to challenge their sentencing conditions.


It isn’t uncommon for defendants to hire new attorneys post-conviction because appellate law requires a different skill set.


The Process of Initiating a Habeas Corpus Petition

Prison inmates can file a habeas corpus petition with the California Superior Court. They must meet three requirements before filing a writ of habeas court petition. These are:

  • The defendant must be in custody
  • The defendant must have exhausted all other avenues (filed every possible appeal available to them)
  • They must raise issues in the write that must be new or unique to those raised on appeal


In other words, legal claims that were rejected before cannot be reraised with a writ of habeas corpus. With that said, exceptions can be made to this rule.


Note that a person ‘in custody’ can mean any of the following:

  • Confinement in a county jail or state prison
  • Out on parole, probation, or bail
  • Released on one’s ‘Own Recognizance’


Successfully raising a Writ of Habeas Corpus requires the prison inmate to claim one of the following:

  • Being convicted under an unconstitutional law
  • Not having a competent attorney (or no attorney was provided to them)
  • There were instances of prosecutorial misconduct
  • The person faces harsh conditions due to their confinement
  • There was a jury misconduct
  • New evidence has been discovered proving the petitioner’s innocence
  • The person was not mentally competent to stand trial
  • The law has changed since the conviction was handed out

Winning the Writ of Habeas Corpus

There are various ways of successfully pursuing Habeas Corpus cases, including:

Finding Evidence of Errors in the Trial

One might be able to challenge the conviction if the defendant’s rights were violated during the trial. A competent appeals attorney can use hundreds of arguments to successfully pursue a Writ of Habeas Corpus and overturn the conviction.

Proving Innocence

Studies show that nearly 2000 wrongful convictions are convicted every year in the US. A Wit  Habeas Corpus can be highly effective at securing one’s freedom based on their innocence. Writs of Habeas Corpus may incorporate new evidence, including witness testimonies and documents proving the person was falsely convicted.

What Happens if the Court Approves the Petition?

A successful Writ of Habeas Corpus in California can achieve one of the following:

  • Release the defendant
  • Reduce the defendant’s sentencing
  • Make changes to the defendant’s sentencing conditions


If the court finds that the facts in the petition hold water, it may order the government to file a response to the petition. This step is known is referred to as a ‘return’.


The petitioner has the right to file an answer to the return, which is known as a ‘traverse’.


The court may hold a hearing to study the evidence presented by the defendant and the government.

What to do if the Writ of Habeas Corpus was Denied in State Courts?

Defendants can file the petition in federal court if it was denied by California state courts, including the California Supreme Court.


It is worth noting that the federal courts incorporate a very strict approach to habeas corpus petitions that challenge state sentences. In most cases, petitioners may only qualify for a federal habeas corpus if they can prove that:

  • Their captivity is in violation of the United States Constitution
  • The California courts made a mistake in their sentencing
  • The person has exhausted every possible avenue available in California courts

Writ of Habeas Corpus Attorneys in California

Petitioners can use a range of legal tools to achieve a favorable outcome. The most important defense is working with a skilled Habeas Corpus lawyer in California. At Justice Firm, our attorneys will thoroughly review the facts of the case to support your Writ of Habeas Corpus.


For a free consultation, contact us here!

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