Study Guide

Constitution - Eighth Amendment

Eighth Amendment

Passed by Congress: 25 September 1789
Ratified: 15 December 1791


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The Eighth Amendment returns to the themes of the Fifth and Sixth, targeting potential abuses of the criminal justice system. The Eighth bans "cruel and unusual punishments" for crimes, and also prohibits "excessive" bail and fines. What exactly is the real-world meaning of "cruel and unusual" and "excessive", though? Courts have been arguing about that for a long time.