In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the early history of bail in modern society. Initially pioneered by the British over several centuries, bail became an accepted method for defining certain crimes where the accused would be allowed release from incarceration versus those where remaining in jail was necessary based on public safety.
At Beehive Bail Bonds, we’re happy to offer 24-hour bail bond services using all the modern solutions available to us – but we’re always cognizant of the history here, and of the Constitutional documents, namely the Eighth Amendment, that govern bail and related themes. Today’s part two of our series will go over the Eighth Amendment and what it covers, including not only bail but also another well-known area of constitutional law.
The Eighth Amendment is actually best known for the part that’s outside the bail realm: Cruel and unusual punishment, which as we went over in part one is actually a phrase that was adopted by the founders of our country from the British. In the late 1600s, this language was brought into the English Bill of Rights to define several prisoner and incarceration areas – and much of this English Bill of Rights was later adopted into the US Bill of Rights, which includes the Eight Amendment.
The precise language of this Amendment, in full, states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” As we’ll detail in further sections, this language is commonly up for some spirited debate.
What exactly does “cruel and unusual” mean? How do we measure or define that term? The original Amendment provides no specific examples, so this has largely been done using precedent set by the courts over the years – and this is also still an area where debates rage regularly among those in the legal field.
That said, there are several areas that have been broadly agreed-upon as cruel and unusual. Nearly all forms of torture qualify, for instance, as do certain acts against certain individuals – executing a mentally handicapped person or a person under age 18, for example, has been determined to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
As the language we noted above clearly indicates, the Amendment also covers bail. The language that regards penalties also speaks to the price of obtaining release for many accused crime types, including any government institution holding a defendant unreasonably for a crime that has been deemed low-level enough to qualify for release.