Excessive Fines Clause

The Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Excessive Bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The Excessive Fines Clause drew its language from Article 1, Section 9 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which had originally adopted the language of the English Bill of Rights. The English Bill of Rights was intended to curb the excesses of English Judges who had imposed heavy fines upon the enemies of the king. The United States Supreme Court has concluded that the “focus of the Eighth Amendment was the potential for governmental abuse of its ‘prosecutorial’ power, not concern with the extent or purposes of civil damages.” In short, the Excessive Fines Clause was intended to limit the punitive power of the government rather than as a constraint in matters involving private parties.

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