What is a Federal Habeas Corpus Petition?

Habeas corpus is the procedure by which a court can look into whether a person is being held illegally in prison or jail, or is illegally on probation or parole, or is illegally “in custody” in another way. The federal habeas corpus law provides a way that a prisoner in state custody can ask a federal court to decide whether his or her conviction is unconstitutional after the prisoner has first presented all of his constitutional claims to the State courts.

Many kinds of issues or claims can be brought in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. But claims must be based on the United States Constitution or a federal law, and they must relate to rights that criminal defendants possess at trial or on direct appeal. Federal habeas corpus is not available to correct errors of state law.

Habeas petitioners who are in State custody must exhaust State remedies before seeking a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The claim must have been both factually and legally argued in the State court as an issue of federal Constitutional law or federal law.

There must be a fully exhaust a claim for relief in the State court. The claim must either (1) have traveled through all stages of the state’s direct appeal process, including any stages of "discretionary review" that are a part of the process of State appellate review, or (2) all the way through all stages of the habeas corpus process in the State courts.

There is a one-year limitations period for filing a federal habeas corpus petition. The statute of limitations (SOL) period begins to run based on the latest of four possible dates, which is why consulting an appellate attorney is advisable.

Massachusetts Criminal Appeal Lawyer

Winning a federal habeas case is difficult. A petitioner will only win if the state courts were not only wrong, but unreasonably wrong, in denying one or more of the petitioner’s federal constitutional claims.

The federal court's decision can be appealed, but only upon obtaining a "certificate of appealability" (COA). The standard for a COA is a "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." The appeal must presents issues that are "debatable" or that other "reasonable judges" could have decided differently.

Attorney William Driscoll handles each federal habeas corpus petition personally. His research, writing, and presentation skills are time tested and based upon the same drive, detailed analysis, and plain-English communication style that earned him Federal Government distinction during his pre-law career.

Time is of the essence!
For help, contact Attorney Driscoll to learn more about his legal services.