What is the 8th Amendment?


Quick Answer

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution deals with bails, fines and punishments imposed by U.S. courts. U.S. citizens have protection from excessive bail, which wrongly imprisons poorer people before trial and sentencing. The Eighth Amendment also guarantees protection against excessive fines, which can be used to unjustly seize property, as well as protection against cruel and unusual punishment while those arrested are held or imprisoned.

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Full Answer

According to the Congressional Research Service Annotated Constitution, the Eighth Amendment’s provisions for setting reasonable bails, which gives those arrested the opportunity to bail out of jail, require that bail be set by a judge while the defendant awaits trial. This provision is adapted from the English Bill of Rights Act, which sought to guarantee English citizens the right to bail in cases in which bail was appropriate.

The Eighth Amendment also seeks to limit legal fines to what is reasonable according to the law and existing regulations. Much more recently, the U.S. Supreme Court has re-examined the issue of excessive fines in light of fines levied against the indigent as well as punitive damages in civil lawsuits.

Perhaps the most famous provision of the Eighth Amendment is its protection against cruel and unusual punishment, which includes treatment and handling of incarcerated criminals, people taken into custody during police interviews and interrogations, and people on remand while awaiting trial.

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