The New Student's Reference Work/Habeas Corpus
Ha′beas Cor′pus (meaning “have the body”), the writ served upon a sheriff or person having charge of a prisoner, commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner in court before the judge issuing the writ, at a specified time, and to state the cause why the prisoner is detained. The Habeas Corpus Act was passed in the reign of Charles II, 1679. Previous to this time it had been possible for those high in authority effectually to rid themselves of their opponents for long periods of time by having them imprisoned upon some charge, and the Habeas Corpus Act was passed to prevent this abuse of authority by illegitimate detention of persons in prison without a trial. The United State law is practically the same as the English, having been copied from it.