Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SDSU and the 8th Amendment

Today I was reading through the United States constitution, and I was reminded of the 8th Amendment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
South Dakota State University students are probably the ones who should most concern themselves with this. As a Student's Association Senator, I served on the appeals committee for parking and traffic, and have received a few parking tickets on campus myself, and I have to say...SDSU has parking fines that are quite excessive, and the fines are going up even higher. In addition, students are being ticketed in ridiculous numbers for really lame offenses...such as parking on a snow-covered parking lot and come back to find they were not in a designated parking spot after the snow melted during the day...and now they owe SDSU $50 for their "evil" deeds.

As of now, only the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause has not yet been found applicable to the states through the process of selective incorporation through the 14th Amendment, so it would take a new Supreme Court ruling to have a case under federal law.

The Supreme Court has clarified the term "excessive" to mean penalties which are "grossly disproportionate" to the crime committed.

To me, a $50 (again, about to go up) ticket simply for parking in a space deemed no parking by the university seems quite steep (gross even), especially considering the equivalent fine within the City of Brookings (a different jurisdiction than the university) is a mere $15.

I have been told that one of the purposes of the large fines is to fund things such as snow removal, etc. on campus. Props on the great accounting practices...funding ongoing needs with variable sources of income that may or may not be there.

I don't know what the South Dakota law is exactly, but SDSU better make sure it doesn't make the same mistake Fargo, ND did by administering fines in excess of what state law allowed, simply to line city pockets with more money.

Seriously, $50 dollars as the minimum fine on campus? When I received a speeding ticket for 10 mph over the speed limit in North Dakota, it was only $20. Let's make sure the crime fits the punishment here and not go over the top in charging poor college students so much for petty offenses.

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