Eighth Amendment

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The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

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

The Eighth Amendment is almost identical to a provision in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, in which Parliament declared, "as their ancestors in like cases have usually done...that excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."[1] Virginia adopted this provision of the English Bill of Rights in the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776.

Since the ratification of the Eighth Amendment on December 15, 1791, it has been interpreted by a large number of court cases. The Supreme Court in Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962), applied the Eighth Amendment to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Robinson was the first case in which the Supreme Court applied the Eighth Amendment against the state governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. Before Robinson, the Eighth Amendment had only been applied against the federal government.[2]

In a case involving civil asset forfeiture, the Supreme Court is expected to hold that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Eighth Amendment's excessive-fines clause against the states.


  1. English Bill of Rights of 1689. constitution.org. Retrieved on January 9, 2015.
  2. Federman, Cary. The Body and the State: Habeas corpus and American Jurisprudence, page 99 (SUNY Press 2006).
Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America
16th Amendment.jpg

Bill of Rights:
1 - Freedom of speech, press, religion, etc.
2 - Right to bear arms
3 - Quartering of soldiers
4 - Warrants
5 - Due process
6 - Right to a speedy trial
7 - Right by trial of a jury
8 - No cruel or unusual punishments
9 - Unenumerated rights
10 - Power to the people and states

11 - Immunity of states to foreign suits
12 - Revision of presidential election procedures
13 - Abolition of slavery
14 - Citizenship
15 - Racial suffrage
16 - Federal income tax
17 - Direct election of the United States Senate
18 - Prohibition of alcohol
19 - Women's suffrage
20 - Terms of the presidency
21 - Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
22 - Limits the president to two terms
23 - District of Columbia Voting for President
24 - Prohibition of poll taxes
25 - Presidential disabilities
26 - Voting age lowered to 18
27 - Variance of congressional compensation