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What Is Habeas Corpus?

There are instances when a person is imprisoned unlawfully and may wish to seek relief from such unlawful imprisonment. When this occurs, the person may invoke habeas corpus, a legal action that allows relief of the imprisoned form illegal detention.

Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase at translates to “we command that you have the body.” The purpose of habeas corpus is to protect people from harm that may be inflicted by himself or herself or the judicial system. The US Constitution provides for the writ of habeas corpus to be suspended only under extreme circumstances of rebellion, invasion, or when public safety needs it to be suspended. However, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be invoked by anyone who wishes to escape imprisonment. Habeas corpus applies only to civil proceedings wherein the legitimacy of imprisonment is questioned.

The scope of the writ of habeas corpus was defined to provide all federal courts jurisdiction to issue the writ of habeas corpus to release prisoners in custody if they fulfill one of the following circumstances: “in custody under or by color of the authority of the US or is committed for trial before some court thereof; in custody for an act done or omitted in pursuance of an Act of Congress, or an order, process, judgment, or decree of a court or judge of the US; in custody in violation of US Constitutional laws or treaties; necessary to bring to court to testify; being a citizen of a foreign state and domiciled therein is in custody for an act done or omitted under any alleged right, title, authority, privilege, protection, or exemption claimed under the commission, order or sanction of any foreign state, or under color thereof, the validity and effect of which depend upon the law of nations.”

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