In the state of California, any prisoner who believes he or she is being unlawfully detained or treated in such a way that his or her constitutional rights are being violated has the right to file a petition requesting a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the imprisonment or the conditions of imprisonment. A writ of habeas corpus is a written court order requesting that the custodian of the detained individual, usually a prison official, bring the individual before the court to determine whether the prisoner’s detention is lawful. A state writ of habeas corpus is considered an “extraordinary remedy” under California law and is typically only used in situations where an individual has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, usually after the individual has already attempted and failed to overturn the conviction on appeal. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in California, and your criminal appeal was denied, contact Pat Ford Appeals today to discuss the legal options available to you under California law. You may be able to successfully challenge your conviction by filing a state writ of habeas corpus petition, and Pat Ford can help.
California Attorneys for Writs of Habeas Corpus Petitions
No one deserves to be unlawfully detained due to a wrongful criminal conviction, severely mistreated by prison officials, subjected to prison conditions that are unconstitutional or kept in prison past the proper point of release. Unfortunately, these are real, pervasive issues in the California criminal justice system, and when it comes to proving such issues to the court and obtaining the appropriate remedy – be it an order for a release from prison, a reduced sentence or an end to inhumane conditions of confinement – it takes the expertise of a California criminal appeals lawyer who understands the complexities of constitutional law and California statutory law and case law, as well as the benefits and limitations of habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus is an important legal recourse that gives individuals the power to keep the government in check and challenge the legality of a person’s imprisonment, and initiating a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is a complicated legal process best handled by a practiced criminal appeals lawyer. At Pat Ford Appeals, we understand how traumatic it must be for defendants to be wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit or for inmates to have their constitutional rights violated in prison. Because of this, we go above and beyond to provide our clients with the highest-quality legal representation, and we are committed to ensuring that all of our clients are treated fairly under the law and with the respect they deserve. Criminal appeals attorney Pat Ford has more than 30 years of experience in criminal defense and appeals and has witnessed first-hand how the criminal justice system can fail defendants and inmates. Standing up for these inmates and protecting their rights is his number one priority.
What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?
Literally translated, habeas corpus means to “produce the body” and a writ of habeas corpus petition is a tool that individuals convicted of criminal offenses in California can use to challenge their imprisonment if their criminal appeal was unsuccessful. Prisoners in California who believe they are being unlawfully detained can file a writ of habeas corpus petition requesting a specific remedy or type of relief, such as a release from imprisonment, a change in the conditions under which they are serving their prison sentence, or relief from a sentence that is unconstitutional. Writ of habeas corpus petitions are separate from the direct appeals process in California and can therefore be pursued even if other efforts to appeal a criminal conviction have been unsuccessful. And unlike the direct appeals process, in which there are strict deadlines for filing criminal appeals in California, a writ of habeas corpus petition can be filed at any point, so long as the prisoner is in custody. For instance, if you were convicted of manslaughter and you find out five years into your prison sentence that someone else has confessed to committing the crime, you can still challenge the conviction with a writ of habeas corpus petition, even though the deadline for filing a criminal appeal has passed.
How a Writ of Habeas Corpus Works
Sometimes referred to as the “Great Writ,” a writ of habeas corpus is commonly seen as the last chance for individuals who have been convicted and imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit to get their conviction overturned. Unfortunately, the writ of habeas corpus is not a cure-all for wrongful convictions in California. For instance, if the jury in your criminal case made a mistake and found you guilty of a crime you didn’t commit, the writ of habeas corpus may not help you. On the other hand, if a serious error occurred during your trial that affected the outcome of your case – if the prosecutor introduced false evidence and you were convicted as a result of that evidence, for instance – you can file a writ of habeas corpus petition to challenge the conviction. Even if you don’t wish to challenge the conviction itself, if you were appropriately convicted of a criminal offense, you can still file a writ of habeas corpus petition if you believe your rights have been violated and you want to challenge the conditions under which you are serving your prison sentence.
How is Habeas Corpus Different from an Appeal?
The writ of habeas corpus plays an important role in protecting the rights of prisoners in the California state prison system and exists as a separate avenue for challenging a criminal conviction apart from the direct appeals process. During a California criminal appeal, which must be filed within 30 to 60 days of the trial court’s ruling, an appellate court reviews the trial court’s decision in order to determine whether any reversible errors were made that affected the outcome of the trial. A convicted defendant can appeal the conviction itself or the judge’s sentencing decision, and if the appeal is successful, the appellate court may reverse the conviction, grant the appellant a new trial or remand the case back to the trial court under instructions that the error be remedied. A state writ of habeas corpus, on the other hand, may order the prison where the inmate is being detained to release the inmate, or change the conditions of the inmate’s incarceration, per some evidence that the inmate is being held in violation of a state law or constitutional right. In California, writ proceedings prompt immediate action and can be initiated at any time during which the inmate is in custody, compared to the much slower process of appealing a criminal conviction or sentencing, which must take place immediately after a conviction and sentence.
Grounds for a State Writ of Habeas Corpus
Because the writ of habeas corpus is viewed as an “extraordinary remedy,” this legal tool isn’t available to all convicted offenders in the California criminal justice system. Rather, there are certain specific issues that, if present in your case, may be grounds for a writ of habeas corpus petition. Some of the most important issues leading to writ of habeas corpus petitions in California are as follows:
- Conviction under unconstitutional law – You were convicted under a law that is unconstitutional
- Ineffective assistance of counsel – You did not have a competent attorney at your trial and/or appeal
- Prosecutorial misconduct – The prosecutor in your case engaged in unlawful behavior
- Incompetency during trial – You were not competent when you were tried for the crime
- New evidence – New evidence was discovered after the trial and appeals process was over and the evidence either proves your innocence or would have more likely than not changed the outcome of the trial had it been presented at that time
- No jurisdiction – The court did not have jurisdiction over the defendant
- Changes in the law – The law at the time of your trial was such that you were guilty of the crime, but now the law is such that you would be innocent of the crime
- Challenging conditions of confinement – You want to challenge the conditions under which you are serving your prison sentence
Procedure for Obtaining a California Writ of Habeas Corpus
Writ of habeas corpus petitions go through the courts, but the process is different than the typical criminal court process, which is why it is important to have an attorney representing you who is familiar with the rights of California inmates and state writs of habeas corpus. The procedure for obtaining a writ of habeas corpus in California is as follows:
- You file a petition setting forth the grounds for relief
- The judge makes an initial decision about whether the petition should be granted
- The prison official files a response to your petition, known as a “return”
- You file a reply to the prison official’s response, known as a “traverse”
- The court holds a hearing if any facts are in dispute
- If no facts are in dispute, the court rules based on the documents that were filed
What a Writ of Habeas Corpus Could Mean for You
During any criminal trial, it is important that you have an experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate criminal defense lawyer in your corner, so you can avoid having to go through the appeals process or petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus. That being said, you can see that a criminal conviction and prison sentence are not always the be-all and end-all of a criminal case in California. By filing a writ of habeas corpus petition, you can force the prison official to bring you before the court to challenge the constitutionality of your conviction or determine whether your imprisonment is legal or not. There are many possible outcomes of a writ of habeas corpus petition, depending on the facts of your case and the grounds on which you filed the petition. The judge could order your release from prison or order some other legal remedy, such as a reduction in your sentence or an end to unlawful or unconstitutional conditions of imprisonment.
Hiring an Attorney for a Habeas Corpus Petition
State writs of habeas corpus don’t apply to all criminal cases and successfully filing a habeas corpus petition in California can be challenging, especially if you aren’t familiar with the process of filing a petition and seeking relief using this avenue. Attorney Pat Ford has decades of experience in California criminal defense and criminal appeals and he represents inmates in all legal matters related to writ of habeas corpus petitions in the state of California, including determining whether they are eligible to file a habeas corpus petition, gathering evidence in support of the petition, and researching the best strategy for obtaining relief from the court. At Pat Ford Appeals, we can help you determine whether filing a habeas corpus petition is the best course of action based on your specific circumstances, or if a direct appeal of the conviction is more appropriate in your situation. In either case, our firm can provide you with knowledgeable and aggressive legal representation, thereby improving your chances of obtaining a satisfactory outcome in your appeals case.
Contact Pat Ford Appeals for Legal Help
Even as a convicted offender serving a state prison sentence, you still have important rights under California law, and it is the goal of Pat Ford Appeals to protect those rights through every stage of the appeals process, even if other efforts to overturn your conviction have failed. If you or someone you love is being unlawfully detained in California and you need an attorney to help obtain a state writ of habeas corpus, you have come to the right place. Pat Ford Appeals specializes in all matters related to California criminal appeals, including writ of habeas corpus petitions, and our criminal appeals lawyers are committed to pursuing relief on behalf of wrongfully imprisoned inmates in San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, San Bernardino, Fresno, the Sacramento Metro Area and the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact our law firm today for qualified legal help.