By Tyler Bauer
This is the eighth of many blog posts that will be taking a deeper look at the various amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as proposed amendments to the United States Constitution which failed. The text of each amendment is taken from constitutionus.com and information on failed amendments is taken from www.lexisnexus.com.
The Eighth Amendment
What it Says
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
What it Means
To put it simply, the punishment should match the crime. If someone is arrested for assault, their bail and fines should be relative to their crime. Someone arrested for an objectively worse crime, like battery, should have a higher bail and fines than someone arrested for assault. Similarly, someone arrested for murder should have a higher bail and fines than the batterer. Additionally, nobody should be punished in a cruel and unusual way.
Why it Matters
The Eighth Amendment matters for two reasons. First, it protects the accused from being punished more than he or she should be. It would be unreasonable to fine and punish a thief in the same way we’d fine and punish a rapist. This amendment requires the government to maintain an objective standard of reasonable punishment and avoid treating criminals more harshly than they deserve.
The second reason why the Eighth Amendment matters is its ambiguity. What is excessive bail? What is an excessive fine? What is cruel and unusual punishment? If you asked 100 people, you could get 100 different answers to these questions. The most notable question related to this amendment is the following: Should we have the death penalty? If so, for what crimes? (I’ve dealt with the death penalty before – click here for more.)
I’m opposed to the death penalty, but there’s a good chance you disagree with me, so perhaps the better questions are these: What does the Eighth Amendment mean to you, and why does it matter to you?