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HABEAS CORPUS (2241/2254/2255)

Habeas corpus is an old Latin phrase that means “show me the body.” In the context of the American criminal justice system, the idea is that government authorities must “show the body” of someone arrested to the court before they can lawfully hold them in prison. Practically, in today’s world, it is typically an inmate’s second attempt at finding relief after his or her direct appeal has failed. It is therefore essentially a “collateral” or “from the side” attack on one’s conviction. 


Three numbers are listed above because each of them reflect slightly different forms of habeas motions. A 2241 motion is, in really simple terms, any habeas motion that does not fall under 2255. For the purposes of this blog, suffice to say 2255 motions are far more common than 2241 motions. 2254 motions refer to motions to get into federal court from a state conviction. The most important thing to mention on those motions is that in order to follow them, you need to fully exhaust all of your state remedies before filing in federal court. The federal court does not like to get involved with state business if it does not have to.


A few more important things to mention about habeas corpus motions here. For further information, reach out to us and set up a free consultation and we can talk through if a habeas corpus motion is the right path for you. 


First, you almost always need to exhaust your direct appellate rights before pursuing a habeas motion. The Court does not want people using habeas motions as a “workaround” from what they could have challenged on direct appeal. 


Second, there is a strict one year statute of limitations for filing your habeas corpus motion. This one year starts on the date your conviction is “final.” There are a few different things that deem a conviction as “final,” but the simplest way to think about it is from the date after which nothing is happening in your case. If you’re waiting on anything from the court, such as to see if your state supreme court is going to grant review, then your case is not yet “final.” There are ways to get around this one year time limit, however, particularly if you have new, credible evidence that shows your innocence of the crime for which you were convicted.  


Third, one of the strongest grounds for a habeas motion is evidence of actual innocence. Examples of this could include new DNA evidence, a new witness unavailable at the time of trial or plea agreement, or a witness willing to sign an affidavit recanting their statement. 


If you think you may qualify for relief through a habeas motion, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.