Article I, Section 12 of the Texas Constitution ("Habeas Corpus")

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

The writ of Habeas Corpus is a writ of right, and shall never be suspended. The Legislature shall enact laws to render the remedy speedy and effectual.

Editor Comments

A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that directs a person who has detained another person to produce the detainee so the court can determine the legality of the detention.

In previous Texas constitutions the writ was, consistent with the federal constitution, a privilege rather than a right. Due to the Reconstruction experience, it was made absolute.

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • In re Bonilla, 424 S.W.3d 528, 532 (Tex.Crim.App. 2014) ("The Texas Constitution declares that 'the writ of habeas corpus is a writ of right, and shall never be suspended.' Tex. Const., art. I, § 12. The Texas Constitution mandates that the Legislature 'shall enact laws to render the remedy speedy and effectual.' Id. Accordingly, the Legislature codified procedures for filing applications for writs of habeas corpus in death and non-death cases. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. arts. 11.07 (procedures for applications in non-death cases); 11.071 (procedures for applications in death cases).")

Historic Decisions

  • Ex parte Carr, 511 S.W.2d 523, 525 (Tex.Crim.App. 1974) ("Of course, these decisions relate to matters arising in federal habeas corpus proceedings. . . . A proper respect for the concept of justice it is the office of the Great Writ to protect, requires that petitions be filed in earnest and that all contentions of merit be presented and ruled upon as expeditiously as possible. The writ of habeas corpus is too serious and important a matter to be lightly used, and easily abused. It is a shield against injustice which should not be suffered to become a weapon in the hands of spiteful persons.")
  • Legate v. Legate, 28 S.W. 281, 282 (Tex. 1894) ("If, in this proceeding, it appears that such person is restrained by reason of his supposed violation of some criminal law or quasi criminal law, as an offense against the person, or contempt of court, then the proceeding must be classed as a criminal case, although upon the whole case the court should be of opinion that the act for which such person is detained does not constitute a violation of such law . . . but, if such person is not restrained by reason of some supposed violation of law, then the proceeding must be classed as a civil case.")
  • Ex parte Coupland, 26 Tex. 386, 388-89 (1862) ("The relator [] applied to the Chief Justice on the 16th of July, 1862, in vacation, for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he was illegally restrained of his liberty by R. T. P. Allen, in Travis county, as he believed, 'without any order or process whatever, or any color of either.' The writ issued, and Allen made return that the relator was placed originally in his custody by order of R. J. Townes, provost marshal of Travis county; but that before the service of the writ upon him, the relator had been enrolled as a soldier of the Confederate States . . . .")

Library Resources

Online Resources