Excessive Bail, Due Process and the Constitution
Understanding Constitutional Rights
Excessive bail is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Due process is also required to all United States citizens by the Constitution.
These constitutional guarantees do not prohibit defendants being subjected to preventative pre-trial detention. Defendants facing the death penalty or life sentences may be subjected to pre-trial detention. This method of punishment is justified because it guarantees the following: community safety, personal safety, and court appearances of the defendant.
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Bail is considered excessive if it is higher than the amount the court believes will assure a defendant’s presence in court. Bail is also considered excessive if it is an amount beyond that required to adequately protect the community. Many defendants are unable to meet their bail, but having a bail higher than a defendant’s ability to pay is not considered excessive bail.
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Pre-Trial Detention and Due Process
Defense attorneys may be successful in arguing that pre-trial detentions violate a defendant’s constitutional rights if the detentions are unnecessarily lengthy. States are forbidden by the Constitution to enforce detentions indefinitely without providing a trial. Defendants who are subjected to such punishments may be released because their rights have been violated.
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