General Information about Writs of Habeas Corpus


What is a habeas corpus petition?

A habeas corpus petition is a legal claim of action designed to test the validity of a person's confinement. The complete name is a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, but people may also refer to it as a "habeas petition," "habeas corpus," or simply "writ" or "habeas." Someone filing a habeas claim is asserting that the government has illegally confined them, and they are seeking release from that confinement.

The right to file a petition for habeas relief was deemed so important by America's Founding Fathers that it is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It is also protected in the Texas State Constitution.

What kinds of claims can be raised in habeas?

You can only present claims of constitutional error in a habeas petition.

Common habeas claims are ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, involuntary plea, or newly discovered evidence. There are, however, other possible claims that may be raised, depending on the case. 

What goes into presenting a viable habeas claim?

Every case is different, and this is only general information that may or may not apply to any given case.

Generally speaking, habeas cases done correctly take a good deal of work. It is necessary for the attorney to review all of the trial and appellate documents along with files she must request from the District Attorney's office and other government organizations. It may be necessary to speak with people who were witnesses at trial or who were not witnesses but still had information relevant to the case that the trial court should have heard. The attorney may also need to hire an investigator or expert in order to properly litigate a habeas claim.


If the attorney discovers information that was never presented at trial, she must obtain affidavits memorializing the new evidence. Those affidavits will accompany the habeas petition.

Additionally, the attorney will be in charge of putting together a hearing to formally present the court with evidence and testimony in support of the claims.