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What Does Excessive Bail Mean in the Eighth Amendment?


If you’re arrested in the United States, the Constitution’s Eight Amendment protects you from a judge setting an excessive bail amount. But, what exactly does excessive bail mean? Bail, of course, is basically an agreement between you and the court to assure you’ll return to the court after your release from jail for your appointed trial date. When a judge sets a bail amount, that bail amount can’t be set so impossibly high the defendant can’t pay it. It also means the amount set reflects the seriousness of the crime. For instance, if a judge sets a bail amount of $500,000 for a misdemeanor criminal trespass, that amount would be excessive, given most misdemeanor bail amounts are generally minimal amounts, and certainly well below $500,000.

While the Constitution protects you from excessive bail, that doesn’t mean bail amounts can’t be high. If you’ve been arrested for a very serious offense like murder and evidence seems to indicate you might flee if released from jail, a bail amount could be set pretty high. For assistance with high bail and large bonds in Pittsburgh, PA you can always count on the professionals at Freedom Fast Bail Bonds. Whatever type of bail bond you need, to get the process started, all you need to do is call (412) 368-5188.

What is the purpose of excessive bail?

Setting excessive bail amounts can have many purposes. Some judges may set an excessive amount specifically because they believe the accused will otherwise flee, especially when evidence points toward guilt and a probable conviction. Others may set excessive bail for political or financial gain or as a way to indefinitely detain someone simply because they don’t like that person. No matter how well-intentioned, setting excessive bail amounts is almost always an abuse of power.

What violates the 8th Amendment?

There are many ways the Eighth Amendment can be violated by a judge or law enforcement, as the amendment not only covers excessive bail and excessive fines but also cruel and unusual punishment. If a judge knowingly set a bail amount so high it would be impossible for a person with limited finances to pay, that judge may have violated the amendment. Similarly, if a prison guard were to ignore a prisoner’s serious illness or injury they could be in violation of the amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.

Why is no excessive bail important

The Eighth Amendment’s no excessive bail clause protects you from being held in jail for an extended period, no matter the offense, if the bail amount set is deemed too high to pay. Without this protection, a judge could set bail as high as they wanted no matter the crime, whether it was a felony or a misdemeanor. When it comes to excessive bail and pretrial detention, without the amendment’s protection you could stay in jail indefinitely or until your trial, unless you were able somehow to post bail.

What is an example of excessive bail?

There have been several excessive bail cases recently that provide good examples of excessive bail:
  • A judge in Florida set a bail amount of $500,000 for misdemeanor criminal trespass for the brother of the accused Parkland, FL, school shooter. The typical bail amount for this offense was $25.
  • Suspected murderer and real estate heir Robert Durst had bail set at $3 billion that was reduced to $450,000 after an appeal against excessive bail.

How to determine excessive bail

Determining what is excessive bail can vary for each defendant. If a judge sets bail at $10,000 for a particular offense and the defendant earns a high income, that amount might not seem excessive, but that same amount to someone of lower-income could be excessive. A larger bail amount could be deemed necessary as well for the person with a higher income. Bail is set to make sure a person shows up for trial, so sometimes a higher amount is warranted. If the amount set is believed not to be warranted an appeal should be made to reduce the amount. If the bail amount is reduced, it’s because the original amount may have been excessive, depending on the circumstances.


A bail bond can be paid in a variety of ways. If the defendant has the amount in cash available to pay, they can pay immediately. More often than not, most people must use the services of a bail bond agent to get released from jail. In this case, when a judge sets the bail amount either the defendant or a family member or friend will contact the bail bondsman who charges a fee—usually about 10% of the bail amount—to post bail for the defendant. If you are dealing with a case of excessive bail in Pittsburgh, PA, you may have to make an appeal to get the amount reduced. But, even if your bail is a high amount, Freedom Fast Bail Bonds can help you with your bond. All you need to do is call (412) 368-5188.