What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

A writ of habeas corpus is a way to challenge a criminal conviction in Texas state and/or federal court. This remedy is different from a direct appeal of your criminal sentence to a Texas appellate court, which can be based on any of the issues raised during the court trial that led to your conviction. Unlike a direct appeal, a writ of habeas corpus asks a state court to overturn a criminal conviction due to a state or federal constitutional violation. In a writ of habeas corpus, the court can consider information that was not contained in the court reporter’s record from the trial, such as newly discovered evidence.

Another difference between a direct appeal and a writ of habeas corpus is that while there are strict deadlines to follow in filing a direct appeal, there is no such restriction on filing a writ of habeas corpus in state court. However, there are good reasons to file a writ in state court as quickly as possible. If you don’t file it in a timely manner, the court can dismiss based on the legal doctrine of laches, which means that you should have taken action on your claim earlier. Plus, there is a one-year limit on filing a writ of habeas corpus in federal court that runs from the date of your conviction. You typically file a writ in state court first, so if it is denied, you still have time to file it in federal court.

A common example of a constitutional violation that might lead to a writ of habeas corpus is an allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel. This means that you did not receive the quality of legal representation during your trial to which you are entitled under the constitution. In other words, if your criminal defense lawyer fell asleep for part of your trial, you might be able to file a successful writ of habeas corpus.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Texas criminal appeals attorney Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.