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Proving a Prima Facie Case for Habeas Corpus Relief

Respected Los Angeles Criminal Appeals Lawyer Aggressive Pursuing Post-Conviction Relief on Behalf of Clients Across California

The writ of habeas corpus is one of the most powerful tools in criminal law. In appropriate circumstances, the writ allows courts to essentially reopen a case and order whatever relief the court deems necessary. However, before a court hears the merits of your habeas corpus petition, you must establish a prima facie case for relief. However, proving a prima facie case for habeas corpus relief can be as challenging as it is important, especially given the complex procedural rules that control this area of the law. At Power Trial Lawyers, our team of Los Angeles post-conviction lawyers have extensive, hands-on experience pursuing—and obtaining-habeas corpus relief for inmates serving lengthy prison sentences.

What Is a Prima Facie Case?

Prima facie is a Latin term which translates to “at first sight.” The phrase is used throughout the law to refer to those situations where one party must establish that their allegations, if true, would entitle them to relief. In the context of criminal post-conviction litigation, prima facie comes up most often when discussing a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

How to Prove a Prima Facie Case for Habeas Corpus Relief

Effectively proving a prima facie case for habeas corpus relief requires a petitioner to present facts that, if assumed to be true by the court, would entitle them to relief. Thus, in many ways, a prima facie case for habeas corpus relief depends on the nature of the claim being brought. For example, if you are seeking relief under a theory of ineffective assistance of counsel, you must establish the elements outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984):

  • counsel’s representation fell below an "objective standard of reasonableness" and
  • there was "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."

However, before a court reaches the elements of an inmate’s specific claim, the court will first determine if the inmate has the procedural ability to seek relief. Both state and federal habeas corpus petitions must comply with strict procedural requirements. For example, you can only file a petition for habeas corpus relief if you have exhausted your direct appeal remedies and the issues you raise in your petition were not previously resolved by the court of appeals. For those inmates who have been incarcerated for a number of years at the time of their filing, establishing a prima facie case in a petition for habeas corpus relief often entails establishing that a petitioner’s claim is timely, that their petition is not successive, or that an exception applies.

What Happens After You Prove a Prima Facie Case?

Once the court is satisfied that an inmate presented a prima facie case for relief, the court will issue an order to show cause (“OSC”). This compels the district attorney to explain why, in their opinion, the petitioner is not entitled to relief. The court may also request additional records or documentation to assist in its determination.

Are You Seeking California Habeas Corpus Relief?

If you or a loved one are serving a lengthy term of imprisonment, the writ of habeas corpus may be your best chance at obtaining relief. Attorney Matthew Barhoma and his team of aggressive Los Angeles post-conviction attorneys have a successful track record of obtaining relief on behalf of clients convicted of serious crimes. At Power Trial Lawyers, we have extensive experience representing clients in Los Angeles and throughout California in habeas corpus litigation and have secured the release and resentencing of many clients through a variety of post-conviction remedies. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Barhoma today, call 213-800-7664. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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