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What is the 8th Amendment?

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The eighth amendment bans the federal government from demanding excessive bail and fines and states that no harsh and unusual punishments can be given. The paragraphs below describe in more depth what this amendment means.

What does the 8th amendment mean by excessive bail and fines?

There’s a lot of questions regarding the term “excessive.” What does that even mean for the 8th amendment? Well let’s say that a person barely meets mortgage and doesn’t have a lot of money, the government can’t expect someone like that to pay a million dollar fine because they will never be able to come up with that sort of money. On the other hand if a wealthy business manager commits a crime the bail could be more because the bail is not excessive to them and the amount of money they earn. The amendment also can go off of the crime being committed for example, let’s say that a man stole a candy bar from the store then that would be a lot less bail than if a man were to rob a bank, that being said bail is not a form of punishment for the crime although you are charged for the crime that’s been committed, it’s intended for the purpose of getting someone home safe to their family, which is why the 8th amendment was put there in the first place. Water-Pierce Oil Co. VS Texas is an example case in which the 8th amendment involving excessive fines was examined.

What does does the term “cruel and unusual” mean as far as the 8th amendment goes?

The 8th amendment prevents the government from giving a punishment that is far too austere for the crime being committed. One thing we can see is that the 8th amendment states “nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted,”  when looking a little closer we notice that the amendment has the word and, not or, meaning that the punishment can’t be to severe on both sides of cruel and unusual. By stating that the amendment assured that the crime being committed cannot and will not cause wrongful punishment to the man or woman being convicted. Here is an example of when the 8th amendment involving Cruel and unusual punishment was used in a case of Louisiana ex rel. Francis vs. Resweber.

Article written by Sarah Rodgers