Article Viii What Does It Really Mean

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Article Viii: What Does It Really Mean? Essay, Research Paper Article VIII: What Does It Really Mean? Article VIII states: ? Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment? (American Experience, p. 22). Excessive bail was borrowed with a few slight changes from the English Bill of Rights Act. The concept of bail in both England and in the United States was never thought as right to bail in all cases, but to provide that bail would not be excessive in cases where it is considered legitimate to set bail. The definition of Bail, as according to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, property given as surety that a person released from custody will return custody will return at an appointed time. The concept of

bail was first created by the Statute of Westminster the First of 1275 A.D., which created a detailed list of certain offenses that were bailable and those that were not. Because judges were permitted to imprison people with or without bail, the Petition of Right was enacted in 1628 A.D. Due to various frauds of petitions for habeas corpus which could not be presented the English Parliament enacted the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 A.D., which established procedures for the release of prisoners from prison and created penalties for judges who did not comply with the Act. As a result of this, the judges then set bail so high, that it could not be met. With this Parliament responded by including in the Bill of Rights of 1689 A.D. a provision that excessive bail should not be required.

In America excessive fines were given meaning during the early part of the twentieth century. In an early case, the Supreme Court held that it had no authority to revise the sentence of an inferior court, despite the fact that the excessiveness of the fines were quite apparent on the face of the records. With the inability to pay, the poor were then sentenced to jail and thus giving meaning to the term ”excessive fines” as it applied to the person sentenced. During the time the Eighth Amendment was adopted, the Supreme Court noted, that the word ?fine? was understood to mean a payment to a sovereign as punishment for some offense. The Eighth Amendment itself, was clearly adopted in order to place limits on the powers of the government. The Supreme court also decided that the

Excessive Fines Clause was intended to limit only those fines directly imposed by, and payable to the government. One congressional member got into an argument over the true meaning of Cruel and Unusual punishments. He said that ”the import of [the words] being too indefinite,” while another Member said: ”No cruel and unusual punishment is to be inflicted; it is sometimes necessary to hang a man, villains often deserve whipping, and perhaps having their ears cut off; but are we in the future to be prevented from inflicting these punishments because they are cruel? If a more lenient mode of correcting vice and deterring others from the commission of it would be invented, it would be very prudent in the Legislature to adopt it; but until we have some security that this will

be done, we ought not to be restrained from making necessary laws by any declaration of this kind” ( 1). Though it might be clear that a lot of people were concerned with the absence of cruel and unusual punishments from the Bill of Rights. At first, the Court took a historical outline on interpretation, determining whether or not a punishment was ”cruel and unusual.” They made their decisions by comparing and contrasting to see if and what forms of modern day punishment was considered ”cruel and unusual” as compared to those in 1789. The Amendment therefore stated that the only true way to decide which punishments are cruel and unusual and which are not, is from societies ever evolving standards of decency. The Eighth Amendment is only relevant to the