Guide to Amendment VIII of the US Constitution

Amendment VIII of the Constitution of United States (also called the Eighth Amendment) is a particular section from the Bill of Rights that talks about non-cruel and fair punishments and setting fines that are not extremely large.

This amendment was first introduced in the Bill of Rights into the US Constitution on the 5th day of September in the year 1789. In the exact words from the document, the amendment says “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The Eighth Amendment puts boundaries on the US federal government, so it cannot impose extremely harsh fines or penalties on defendants under any circumstance – whether it is the price to be paid for granting bail or the price as punishment for any crime conducted after conviction.

Sometimes understanding legal documents can be hard and overwhelming, but here is an easier breakdown of what Amendment VIII of the US Constitution really means. To understand what Amendment VIII is, it is first important to understand what bail means. Bail is the price that you pay to a court as a commitment that the person that the court is releasing (who is mostly the person giving the bail) will come back for all court proceedings and trials whenever there is need. The price that is paid can be in the form of money or property.

In case the person fails to appear in the court for a trial or a proceeding, the full bail goes to the court and is not returned back to the person. The magnitude of bail depends on many factors – the type of crime committed and the probability that the court sees in believing that the person will come back for all court proceedings. The amendment talks about not imposing excessive bails or fines. This means that under no circumstance is a court in the US federal government allowed to charge a defendant a huge amount of bail or fine. The basis of this rule is that if the court had the capacity, they would judge the person early on and set up a bail amount legitimately.

The other aspect of the Eighth Amendment is that the federal government cannot inflict unusual and extremely cruel punishments. However, some believe that this part of the amendment is prone to some grey area as to what defines ‘cruel’ is not very clear. Some punishments that are completely forbidden as part of Amendment VIII are things like hard labor and taking away someone’s citizenship or rights associated with being a US citizen.

The Eighth Amendment was further ratified in the 18th century when it was realized that punishments cannot be fully disproportionate to the crime. Because of this, the US Supreme Court outlawed things like executing individuals under 18 years of age or individuals who are mentally/physically challenged. Another important thing that the Eighth Amendment states is that the bail amount can be completely denied by a court if the charges on the defendant are extremely serious and big enough to end the bail option.


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