Offenses and Punishment
The Eighth Amendment ensures that the government does not impose excessive or unreasonable bail, excessive fines, or cruel or unusual punishments on individuals who have been accused of a crime. The Amendment requires that every punishment imposed on a defendant be commensurate with the crime that has been committed. Punishments that are deemed disproportionately harsh are considered unreasonable and illegal. Criminal sentences that are deemed barbaric, outrageous, or shocking to the social conscious can be overturned on appeal according to the tenets of the Eighth Amendment. This is because they are considered cruel and unusual punishments, making them unconstitutional according to the Amendment. Furthermore, the fine that the defendant is charged with needs to fit the crime that he is alleged to have committed and should never be excessive. In addition, the High Court is given powers to invalidate sentences that are against the evolving standards of the society on decency and morality. This is due to the fact that society is constantly evolving and its criminal laws need to reflect the same.
There should be a higher concern for individual rights than for public safety. The Supreme Court struck down the Jacksonville ordinance owing to its vagueness on vagrancy. The law was dismissed because it failed to provide fair notice to ordinary citizens that their actions are against the law. This vagueness contributed to erratic arrests and left discretion at the hands of the police. Individuals have a right to live their lives and express themselves as they wish on a daily basis without fearing that their normal actions may result in an arbitrary arrest. Individuals have a right to be accorded respect and dignity under the law. When this is the norm, and individual rights are guaranteed then people will work towards guaranteeing public safety.