Habeas Corpus

2241/2254/2255 Motions

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.

There are three slightly different forms of habeas motions. A 2241 motion is, in really simple terms, any habeas motion that does not fall under 2255, which are far more common than 2241 motions. 2254 motions refer to motions to get into federal court from a state conviction. You need to fully exhaust all of your state remedies before filing these motions in federal court. The federal court does not like to get involved with state business if it does not have to.

If you are in need of federal post-conviction representation, fill out our intake form. Questions? Contact us.

A few more important things to mention about habeas corpus motions:

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.

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.

One of the strongest grounds for a habeas motion is evidence of actual innocence, such as 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.