The Differences Between Appeals and Habeas Corpus

writ of habeas corpus lawyer

The legal terms “writ of habeas corpus,” “direct appeal,” and “post-conviction litigation” are often confused, but they represent distinct legal processes that can be used to challenge a criminal conviction. Understanding the differences between these terms is crucial for anyone facing criminal charges.

Direct Appeal

A direct appeal is a legal process that seeks a higher court’s review of a lower court’s decision in a criminal case. An appeal is not a retrial. It is a review of the trial court proceedings to look for errors in rulings or procedures.

In Texas, you must file a notice of appeal within 30 days after the sentence is imposed or suspended or the day after the trial court enters an appealable order. In federal court, you must file a notice of appeal within 14 days after the entry of the judgment or order being appealed.

Common reasons for appeals:

  • Denials of motions to suppress evidence
  • Misapplication of the rules of evidence
  • Improper jury instructions
  • Jury selection process issues

No new evidence is permitted in a direct appeal.

Habeas Corpus

A writ of habeas corpus is a legal action that challenges the legality or constitutionality of a person’s conviction. It can also be used in cases involving actual innocence. Federal habeas corpus petitions have a one-year deadline from the date the conviction becomes final. There is no deadline for filing a writ of habeas corpus in state court.

New evidence is allowed in habeas corpus proceedings, and a person must exhaust all available appeals before filing a habeas corpus petition.

Post-Conviction Relief

Post-conviction relief encompasses various legal avenues pursued after a conviction to challenge the legality or validity of the conviction and sentence. Habeas corpus is one form of post-conviction relief, but there are others, including:

  • Motions for new trials
  • Petitions for sentence modification
  • Motions to vacate a conviction

Post-conviction relief is available to challenge issues outside of a direct appeal, such as newly discovered DNA evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, and prosecutorial misconduct.

The deadline to file an appeal and the deadlines for other post-conviction reliefs vary depending on the specific type of relief sought and the jurisdiction.

Seek Help from a Board-Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer

Navigating the complex world of criminal appeals, habeas corpus, and post-conviction litigation requires the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, our Texas criminal defense attorneys are board-certified specialists in criminal law and criminal appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. With over 60 years of combined criminal defense experience, we provide comprehensive representation at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal criminal cases.

Our team has successfully represented clients in post-conviction relief proceedings, and we’ll be ready to put our skills and experience to work for you. Call us or contact us online to discuss your case today.