What Is the Difference Between Writs of Habeas Corpus and Audita Querela?

By: Wallin & Klarich

Recently, the Ninth Circuit held that a federal prisoner may not challenge his or her sentence pursuant to a petition for a writ of audita querela if the requested relief can be obtained through a writ of habeas corpus. Defendants in California have a right to challenge their conviction in either state or federal court by way of filing an appeal and later a writ of habeas corpus.

The writ of habeas corpus, which is translated from Latin as “We command that you have the body” is a writ, or legal action, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention. On the other hand, a common law writ of audita querela is issued to afford a remedy to defendants against whom a judgment had been rendered, but who have discovered new matters in support of their defense not available at their original trial.

Although both writs share similar features, there is one important distinction between the two. Unlike habeas corpus that is available for all petitioners, the writ of audita querela is a limited extraordinary legal remedy that applies in the circumstances when defendants exhausted all other available avenues in challenging their criminal conviction. It is rarely used in federal criminal matters, and primarily applies to civil matters after a final judgment is filed in a trial court.
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Posted In: Criminal Defense