The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution provides that "Excessive bail shall not be required . . . ." This clause, as with all of the Bill of Rights, serves as a limitation on the federal government. From a very early date this provision has likewise established a boundary on the discretion of the federal courts in their exercise of criminal jurisdiction. Although this Eighth Amendment provision is a protection against federal encroachment, it does not limit the powers of states, arguments of individual Justices to the contrary notwithstanding.

In the recent Supreme Court decision of Stack v. Boyle, this Court for the first time definitively summarized the federal right to bail under constitutional amendment and statutes. This case makes it desirable to formulate a statement of what the right consists of today, both in fundamental nature and in its application.