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Writs of Habeas Corpus

What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

First off, what are writs of habeas corpus? This is a legal document which a lawyer prepares and a judge signs to release a person from jail. The term is Latin for “turn the body over.” A person is eligible for a writ when incarcerated with no bond set. In rare cases, it is also a form of appeal in limited circumstances when the time tables for appeals have run.
The United State Constitution, Article 1, Section 9 provides “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Texas Writs of Habeas Corpus (How do I bond someone out of jail? Do I need to get writ?)

In Texas, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, chapter 11 contains the law regarding writs of habeas corpus. Most often questions arise about obtaining a writ when arrested with no bond set. The law in Texas provides that after taking a person into custody the legal entities “shall without unnecessary delay, but not later than 48 hours after [arrest], take the person arrested or have him taken before some magistrate of the county….” (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 15.17). At this juncture the judge reads the person her rights and sets bonds. The reality is that often this may take longer (72 hours).

If a person is on probation and remains in jail on a probation violation, the law requires that there be a hearing no later than 20 days (Texas CCP Article 42.12 section 21b). If a person is in jail on a felony, the state must be ready for trial within 90 days of the detention or the court must release him on personal bond or have the amount of bail reduced (Texas CCP Article 17.151).

History of the Writ

The history of the writ of habeas corpus in America focuses on the John Merryman case during the Civil War. John Merryman faced accusations of burning railroad bridges and cutting telegraph wires to impede Union troops from coming into Baltimore on their way to the Capitol. Military officials arrested John Merryman, who took him to Fort McHenry. He applied for a writ of habeas corpus and Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, riding circuit court, granted it. President Lincoln ignored it, having suspended writs of habeas corpus during rebellion, as the Constitution allows.

The interesting part of the Merryman case was how filing a writ actually caused him more legal troubles. They added a treason accusation (never pursued) and the railroad sued him. Despite letting others out of jail, officials kept him in jail to prove a political point. He filed suit for false imprisonment and later the railroad filed suit against him. Eventually all suits were dropped in a fascinating saga of how the President used his executive powers in wartime. He used the arrests and detentions. These methods resulted in a way to incarcerate dangerous subversives from further national harm and wartime activity, rather than a mechanism for punishment.

Why are Writs of Habeas Corpus important?

Democracy requires writs of habeas corpus. Our Founding Fathers were careful to include writs of habeas corpus in our Constitution. This is due to the history of tyrannical and political imprisonment in England. In Texas, the ACLU filed suit against judges in Houston for setting bonds too high for citizens accused based on their alleged crimes and income levels. This spurred across the board changes in many Texas counties, notably Tarrant County. The end result is a process which can take much longer to bond a loved one out of jail. For example, a matter of days versus hours in the past.

The Coffey Firm is available to help

We, at the Coffey Firm, can do writs of habeas corpus but advise the cost may be better spent on the actual representation (lessens the overall cost if you don’t do a writ), when the benefit is a matter of hours or a day. We can guide you through the stressful process of bonding someone out. Do not hesitate to give us a call.

When people look for a Top DWI Attorney or Best DWI Attorney, they look for experience, certification, and respect in the legal community. Mimi Coffey is a nationally-renowned trial attorney, board-certified in DWI by the NCDD. She has been practicing for over 24 years and is an author of multiple DWI Defense textbooks. She is also a national and state-wide lecturer on the law.

Mimi is also listed on several “top” directory listings such as  DWI Lawyers for Wise County, DWI Lawyer Fort Worth,  DWI attorney Dallas County, DWI attorneys Collin County and DWI attorneys Parker County. She is a caring DWI Lawyer in DFW, She is also involved in the Texas Tech School of Law foundation. She enjoys using the skills she has developed to give back to the community.

**** GOVERNOR ABBOTT RECOMMENDS THAT COURTS NOT ALLOW IN-PERSON APPEARANCES UNTIL AT LEAST JUNE 1 (as of April 27, 2020) ****