With the exception of just a few states and the District of Columbia, bounty hunters roam pretty freely across the United
States. While some states have enacted various legislation regarding licensing, training and activities of bounty hunters,
they don't generally have the restrictions, particularly regarding search and seizure, that apply to you.
When a suspect is stupid enough to fail to appear for court, and his or her bond is secured by a bail bondsman, the
bondsman will send the bounty hunter. Unlike you, the bounty hunter doesn't need any arrest warrant or search and
seizure warrant from the court. The bounty hunter simply finds the suspect and returns him or her to jail.
Without bail bondsmen and the bounty hunters who serve them, the criminal justice system would be in very serious
trouble. Have you ever wondered why criminals are generally very dependable when it comes to appearing for their court
dates? The reason is simple, and it can be described with one word...certainty. That certainty is...if you cross the bail
bondsmen, you'll be hunted down in very short order.
You'll arrest people with arrest records for serious crimes literally as long as your arm. At first you may be surprised
how quickly your suspects are out on bail. All you have to do is look at those arrest records, and you'll notice the
absence of one all important previous arrest charge...Failure to Appear (FTA). While you'll often hear that the danger
the suspect presents to the community is taken under consideration when determining bail status, the single overriding
consideration is a high probable certainty that the suspect will appear for trial. That danger consideration business
applies most frequently when the incident is high profile...translation -- newsworthy.
An arrest record works much like a credit record. Let's say you arrest two suspects, in the same and relatively minor
incident, and you charge both with identical charges. The first suspect has no previous record of arrests while the second
suspect has a lengthy record including arrests for serious offenses. While the first suspect will probably be required to
post bail, the second suspect may well be released on his or her own recognizance as long as that second suspect has no
previous FTA charge(s).
It's all about money, jail space, priorities, and the realities involved with police officers tracking down people while
adhering to constitutional safeguards. Bounty hunters are responsible for the apprehension of 90% of those who jump
bail. Without the bounty hunter, two things would happen: bail bondsmen would go out of business, and most of the
arrest warrants issued for those failing to appear for court would join the hundreds of thousands of unserved arrest
warrants laying dormant all across the country.
When it comes to police officers, you'll learn that priorities are attached to the service of arrest warrants. Obviously,
the service of an arrest warrant for murder will be pursued relentlessly by police. When you move to the other end of
that priority scale where FTA warrants reside, you can realize that relentless does not apply. From time to time, you'll
notice that police departments perform special operations to clear their backlog of unserved arrest warrants. These ever
occurring backlogs are not necessarily due to a department's inefficiency in warrant service. The number of arrest
warrants issued in a particular jurisdiction, and the police officers' constitutional restrictions have everything to do with
the proliferation of unserved arrest warrants.
The bail bondsmen cannot afford to rely on police departments to protect their posted bonds from forfeiture by the courts
when their clients fail to appear for court. The courts have long understood this reality which is so intertwined with all
the other realities. While bounty hunters come under scrutiny more frequently for their wild west ways of catching bad
guys -- due to the 24 hour news cycle -- the bounty hunter will never be in danger of extinction.
Back to why you should avoid the bounty hunter. If you assist bounty hunters in an apprehension of a bail jumper, your
mere presence effectively transforms the bounty hunters into agents of the state. Since you're a sworn police officer,
your participation -- to any degree -- makes you responsible for any constitutional violations committed during the
apprehension. It's a weird thing to comprehend since the bounty hunters cannot, themselves, commit those violations.
Bounty hunters, who know what they're doing, won't want you, or any police officer, around to cramp their style.
However, there my well come a time when you'll respond to an incident where bounty hunters are involved:
Let's say you receive a call for a home invasion. You arrive only to learn that bounty hunters have broken into a home
looking for a suspect who has jumped bail.
Amid the confusion, you verify that the suspect does live at the address; however, the suspect was not at home when the
bounty hunters entered. The suspect's wife is complaining about the bounty hunters breaking down the front door.
While you couldn't have done that in the absence of hot pursuit or a search and seizure warrant, the bounty hunters
have no such restrictions. Okay...the wife continues to complain that the bounty hunters are searching through her
Remember, whenever you arrive on the scene of anything, you are immediately in charge. In this instance, the bounty
hunters are looking for information to identify additional locations where they might look for the suspect. They are, in
fact, conducting search and seizure.
Well, they had their chance. Now that you're present, and you're in charge...everything stops. You chase the bounty
hunters out of the home, make certain the wife has identifying information regarding the bounty hunters and the
bondsman who employs them, and you prepare a miscellaneous incident report detailing the facts of the incident.
In this incident, everything has gone relatively uneventful, but let's make it a little more interesting. You walk inside
the house with the knowledge that bounty hunters are present. You enter a room where one of the bounty hunters is
searching the personal papers. The wife is objecting as she grabs onto a piece of paper the bounty hunter is holding in
his hand. The bounty hunter responds by grabbing the wife by her arm, and he pushes her across the room.
Once the bounty hunters had determined the suspect was not present, they should have left. Anything else they do, such
as searching for the information described, should be done with approval. In this instance, the wife clearly does not
approve, and she attempts to stop the search. The response by the bounty hunter is clearly not a response for self
defense. You have, in fact, witnessed an assault, and the bounty hunter would be subject to arrest.
It's really pretty simple. While bounty hunters have a lot of latitude in their work, when they're in your presence,
they're just like everybody else. Just never lose track of your responsibilities, and the fact that you possess the
authority to meet those responsibilities.
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Before I talk about the need for, and importance of, bounty hunters, I must tell you to stay as far away from these
guys...or girls as possible. If you're ever approached by bounty hunters, and they request that you accompany them to
locate a person who's jumped bail -- don't do it! If they're just letting you know that they'll be at a particular location or
area, that's fine. You can simply notify your communications of their presence in the event a 911 call results from their