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Habeas Corpus

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Habeas Corpus

 n. Law A writ issued to bring a party before a court to prevent unlawful restraint. [

The basic premise behind habeas corpus is that you cannot be held against your will without just cause. To put it another way, you cannot be jailed if there are no charges against you. If you are being held, and you demand it, the courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus, which forces those holding you to answer as to why. If there is no good or compelling reason, the court must set you free. It is important to note that of all the civil liberties we take for granted today as a part of the Bill of Rights, the importance of habeas corpus is illustrated by the fact that it was the sole liberty thought important enough to be included in the original text of the Constitution.

During wartime or periods of civil insurrection, Presidents can suspend habeas corpus.

The Constitution protects it under Article I, Section 9. Union authorities denied habeas corpus to over 14,000 persons arrested in the Civil War in actions judged illegal by Ex Parte Merryman and Ex Parte Milligan. The Ku Klux Klan Act suspended habeas corpus in nine S.C. counties in 1871.