- a writ requiring a person to be brought before a judge or court, especially for investigation of a restraint of the person’s liberty, used as a protection against illegal imprisonment.
- law a writ ordering a person to be brought before a court or judge, esp so that the court may ascertain whether his detention is lawful
writ requiring a person to be brought before a court, mid-15c., Latin, literally “(you should) have the person,” in phrase habeas corpus ad subjiciendum “produce or have the person to be subjected to (examination),” opening words of writs in 14c. Anglo-French documents to require a person to be brought before a court or judge, especially to determine if that person is being legally detained. From habeas, second person singular present subjunctive of habere “to have, to hold” (see habit) + corpus “person,” literally “body” (see corporeal). In reference to more than one person, habeas corpora.
A legal term meaning that an accused person must be presented physically before the court with a statement demonstrating sufficient cause for arrest. Thus, no accuser may imprison someone indefinitely without bringing that person and the charges against him or her into a courtroom. In Latin, habeas corpus literally means “you shall have the body.”