When the U.S. Constitution was adopted, the framers and ratifiers could not have imagined what impact all of the amendments to the original constitution would have on criminal procedure in the future. In fact, the application of the constitution to criminal laws and procedures takes up the majority of opinions the High Court issues on constitutional issues.
One of those all important constitutional amendments in dealing with criminal cases is the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In it, the framers forbade the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment on those who are convicted of criminal activity in a court of law. But the exact meaning of cruel and unusual punishment has eluded a firm definition over the many years it has been interpreted.
In typical cases, the Eighth Amendment is used as a way to challenge the death penalty. Of course there are critics on both sides of this issue. Those who are for the death penalty argue that it can not be considered cruel and unusual as the framers announced it because at the time the death penalty was a common sentence for crimes that were not even murder. Then there are those who oppose the death penalty and argue that the provision should be viewed in the light of modern standards and not those of the 18th century.
Prisoners Argue Eighth Amendment Rights
Now the cruel and unusual principle of the Eighth Amendment is making an appearance in a different sort of way. Prisoners in a Texas state prison are arguing that the heat conditions they suffer through in summer, without adequate air conditioning and ventilation, constitute making them suffer a cruel and unusual punishment for their crimes. And now the case is catching national attention.
To bolster their case, the plaintiffs are presenting evidence of how the heat has affected prisoners in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It was recently reported that since 1998, 20 inmates have died from heatstroke or hyperthermia. And the lawsuit alleges that many more have died from complications arising from overly hot conditions. Now the case is before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether forcing inmates to live in sweltering conditions while serving a sentence for a crime constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
This is just one example of the many ways in which the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments work to protect the rights of those accused of crimes. But the only way to ensure those rights are properly exercised is by having the right legal team who knows what your rights are and how to defend them in court.
Every encounter that a person has with the government or its agents related to a crime must comply with the norms and rules embodied in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. This means that searches and seizures must be reasonable; in most cases the police need a warrant to enter a home or make an arrest; that a suspect is informed of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney, and many more. If any of these rights are violated, the court is obligated to create a solution that both punishes the wrong act and which works to prevent it from happening again. But all of this can only happen if the defense attorney knows what he is doing.
Contact Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges by the federal, state, or military, you need the right attorney working on your side. Contact our Chicago civil rights lawyers at Barney & Hourihane to learn more about your rights.