Types of Judicial Relief
When all direct appeals have been exhausted by a defendant (inmate), many times hope feels lost. This is a normal feeling, but not true. After direct appeals are finished with no relief, there are three separate options for relief. All three are Writs, and each has a specific use.
- A Writ of Habeas Corpus (28 U.S.C. §2255)
- A Writ of Habeas Corpus (28 U.S.C. §2241)
- A Writ of Coram Nobis (28 U.S.C. §1651)
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Uses of Habeas Corpus Motions
The two Writs of Habeas Corpus are used by a criminal defendant who is currently incarcerated. Depending on the situation, each can be used to grant relief to the inmate.
A §2255 motion (or petition) is used to challenge the underlying sentence and/or conviction in ways that are unavailable on direct appeal. The vast majority of these motions cite “Ineffective Assistance of Counsel” as a basis for challenge. If a lawyer clearly did a terrible job, this form of relief may be what an inmate needs to reverse his conviction. Strong standards apply to this type of appeal, but relief is not at all impossible with the right help.
A §2241 motion (or petition) is used to challenge conditions or legality of confinement. If unconstitutional treatment is given to an inmate, this type of relief is best used. This type of relief is of particular importance for inmates who are held after their sentence has expired, if they are being held illegally, or if execution of a sentence is being improperly managed by the Bureau of Prisons.
Writ of Coram Nobis
This is a special writ that is based in Common Law. Used only after a sentence of imprisonment is finished, this tool is used to overturn a conviction long after the fact if circumstances have changed in the legal landscape. If a form of prosecution used to convict is deemed illegal or unconstitutional, this writ can be used effectively to remove a criminal conviction from an ex-con’s record.