Friday, June 8, 2007

Writ of Habeas Corpus

A short time ago, a young man contacted my office who was facing the threat of deportation because he was a non-United States citizen and had been twice convicted of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The second conviction was the problem and we needed to find a way to persuade the trial court to reverse and dismiss this case. The the answer to this young man's problem was the writ of habeas corpus. We filed a writ claiming the young man's original plea was involuntary because the court had failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea.

My May 31st post, "Staying on the Cutting Edge" also concerned the writ of habeas corpus. There defense lawyers were arguing Ms. Henderson's death sentence should be reconsidered because of newly developed forensic evidence. The vehicle through which the defense was making the claim was through habeas corpus.

Often a family member of a loved-one convicted of a crime has contacted my College Station criminal defense firm to inquire about legal remedies available to help the family member get out from under the burden of the conviction. Again, the answer is often the writ of habeas corpus. After a person is convicted, punishment assessed, and the conviction becomes "final," often the only legal avenue to pursue is the writ of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus, or collateral appeal, is a vehicle through which a person can attack the validity of their criminal conviction.

Over the years the criminal courts have limited habeas issues to areas involving fundamental miscarriages of justice, or the denial of certain constitutional rights. Under the United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution, a criminal defendant is entitled to certain specific rights; for example, the right to counsel, the right to compel the attendance of witnesses, the right against double jeopardy or ex post facto laws, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, and the right to have a fair and impartial jury trial while being accorded procedural and substantive due process.

However, even these foundational constitutional claims may be denied on habeas corpus if it's shown at trial, or on direct appeal, defense counsel could have presented those issues but failed to do so. (called procedural default) Consequently, claims of "ineffective assistance of counsel" are often the key issue involved for the protection of a person's constitutional rights on habeas corpus.

A Texas criminal appeal lawyer familiar with appeals and habeas corpus can often give their clients an invaluable and unique perspective on their criminal case, or even their final convictions.

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