What Is Considered Cruel & Unusual Punishment?

Acts that deliberately degrade or inflict pain or injury on prisoners and punishments that are disproportionate to the crime are considered cruel and unusual punishments under the Eighth Amendment.

What Is Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Under the Eighth Amendment, anyone convicted of a crime is guaranteed due process. This includes prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment defined as punishment that’s deliberately degrading, a punishment that’s too severe for the crime committed, and acts of violence or torture.

In 1910, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged uncertainty about “what constitutes cruel and unusual punishments” under the law. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment related to the following conditions.

Prison Conditions

The Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment clause addresses a prisoner’s conditions of incarceration, stating that prison officials may not deprive inmates of “the basic necessities of life,” including shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, and necessary medical attention. The Supreme Court made the following rulings:

  • Overcrowding – The Supreme Court ruled that prison overcrowding is unconstitutional because it endangers a prisoner’s basic living conditions, health, and safety.
  • Beatings – The Supreme Court ruled that “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” such as malicious acts by prison guards used to punish prisoners are considered cruel and unusual punishments.

Proportionality of Sentence

The Supreme Court ruled that the sentence for a crime must not be disproportionate to the crime committed, regardless if it’s a felony or misdemeanor. Certain factors are considered to measure proportionality, such as the severity of the offense, the harshness of the penalty, sentences imposed on other offenders within the same jurisdiction, and sentences imposed on other offenders in different jurisdictions.

Under the Eighth Amendment, no particular term of years in prison is prohibited and the death penalty is not considered cruel and unusual punishment. If arrested in Minnesota, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapoliscan work to reduce a harsh sentence that involves time in prison.

Prisoner’s Age

The Supreme Court considers the age of an offender when determining the constitutionality of imprisonment. There are special considerations for sentencing juvenile offenders. The court ruled that it is unconstitutional to impose a life prison sentence on juvenile non-homicide offenders and juvenile homicide offenders without the possibility of parole.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

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The top reasons for license suspension in Minnesota include driving under the influence of alcohol, repeated traffic violations, and failure to appear in court or pay fines. Failure to pay child support, criminal convictions and felonies, medical conditions/disabilities, and drag racing can also lead to license suspension. The suspension takes away your driving privileges, preventing you from driving legally.
Motorists arrested for allegedly driving while impaired might wonder, “Can you refuse a breathalyzer?” In Minnesota, the implied consent law requires a person licensed to drive, control, or operate a vehicle to agree to a chemical test to check for alcohol or other intoxicants in that person’s body. Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or another chemical test is a crime, often charged as a gross misdemeanor.