11. What protections does the 8th Amendment provide to individuals subject to criminal charges?
The 8th Amendment prohibits the Federal Government from imposing “excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment” on individuals pursuant to criminal prosecution. These protections have been extended to state governments as well. The prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment has been the subject to extensive interpretation over the years. This has particularly been the case with regard to capital punishment. Generally, the standard for what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment has become increasingly broad.
• Discussion: Why to you think the trend toward what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is toward greater protection of defendants? What do you think is the justification behind prohibiting excessive bail for defendants? What about excessive fines?
• Practice Question: Nancy is convicted of check fraud. The judge sentences Nancy to 100 hours of hard labor to be carried out during the hottest hours of the day. Are there any arguments against the constitutionality of this sentence?