Habeas Corpus and Due Process

July 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Commentary

Habeas Corpus

Lat. “you have the body” Prisoners often seek release by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another’s detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. Habeas corpus petitions are usually filed by persons serving prison sentences. In family law, a parent who has been denied custody of his child by a trial court may file a habeas corpus petition. Also, a party may file a habeas corpus petition if a judge declares her in contempt of court and jails or threatens to jail her.

The writ of habeas corpus serves as an important check on the manner in which state courts pay respect to federal constitutional rights. The writ is “the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.” Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969).

DUE PROCESS

The idea that laws and legal proceedings must be fair. The Constitution guarantees that the government cannot take away a person’s basic rights to ‘life, liberty or property, without due process of law.’ Courts have issued numerous rulings about what this means in particular cases.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. A due process claim is cognizable only if there is a recognized liberty or property interest at stake. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 69 (1972).

The Sixth Amendment, which is applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 273-74 (1948), guarantees a criminal defendant a fundamental right to be clearly informed of the nature and cause of the charges against him. In order to determine whether a defendant has received constitutionally adequate notice, the court looks first to the information. James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 24 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 333 (1994). ‘The principal purpose of the information is to provide the defendant with a description of the charges against him in sufficient detail to enable him to prepare his defense.’ Id.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. A due process claim is cognizable only if there is a recognized liberty or property interest at stake. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972).

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