Humanities › History & Culture Definition of Habeas Corpus Share Flipboard Email Print History & Culture American History Basics Important Historical Figures Key Events U.S. Presidents Native American History American Revolution America Moves Westward The Gilded Age Crimes & Disasters The Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Martin Kelly History Expert M.A., History, University of Florida B.A., History, University of Florida Martin Kelly, M.A., is a history teacher and curriculum developer. He is the author of "The Everything American Presidents Book" and "Colonial Life: Government." our editorial process Martin Kelly Updated March 08, 2017 Definition: Habeas Corpus, literally in Latin "you have the body" is a term that represents an important right granted to individuals in America. Basically, a writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate requiring that a prisoner be brought before the court to determine whether the government has the right to continue detaining them. The individual being held or their representative can petition the court for such a writ.According to Article One of the Constitution, the right to a writ of habeas corpus can only be suspended when "in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety." Habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War and Reconstruction, in parts of South Carolina during the fight against the Ku Klux Klan, and during the War on Terror.