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.

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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.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
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What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Confidential informants may provide integral information to help build criminal investigations, but how reliable is that information when they are receiving payment for their services? To protect them, state law requires the identity of informants be kept confidential. For those facing criminal charges, however, this creates challenges in questioning the accuracy and validity of the information given at trial.
Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.