How does someone file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus?

Habeas corpus is a very narrow, complicated area of the law that is very difficult to understand. Because defendants are not entitled to the appointment of an attorney in habeas, however, the vast majority of habeas litigants are prison inmates filing pleadings on their own behalf. 

In an effort to make the process easier, there are forms that a litigant can fill out in order to initiate his habeas case.

Habeas Petitions Based on a Texas State Conviction

Article 11.07 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure governs state habeas petitions.

A person wanting to challenge a criminal conviction that was handed down by a state court in Texas must use a specific form. Click here to go to that form.

Habeas Petitions Based on a Federal Conviction

Title 28, Section 2255 of the United States Code governs federal habeas petitions challenging federal criminal convictions.

A person wanting to challenge a criminal conviction that was handed down by a federal court must use a specific form. Click here to go to that form.

Federal Habeas Petitions Challenging a Texas State Conviction

Title 28, Section 2254 of the United States Code governs federal habeas petitions challenging state criminal convictions.

A person who was convicted by a state court and who has lost his state petition for habeas corpus can file a federal petition for habeas corpus. There is also a form required for that petition. Click here to go to that form.

Briefs in Support

In addition to the required form, it is highly advisable to file a brief in support of the petition. The brief is filed at the same time and in the same court as the petition. 

A brief is simply a written legal argument. It must clearly and concisely set forth the argument and it must cite to cases in support of that arguments.