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Bounty Hunters: The Facts

Bounty hunters are popular throughout modern and historical media as danger-seeking cowboys who apprehend criminals regular sheriffs and police officers aren’t able to. They seem to exist outside the law, but do they?

Laws vary from state to state with regards to bounty hunters, and international laws exist as well which may prevent a bounty hunter from apprehending a criminal in a foreign country.

What Is A Bounty Hunter?

Generally, bounty hunters are employed by a bail bondsman. If a fugitive jumps bail, the bail bondsman is then responsible for all of the fugitive’s bail, which is what got the fugitive out of jail in the first place. Bounty hunters are paid around 10% of the total bail. They are responsible for apprehending around 30,000 fugitives a year, or 90% of bail jumpers. Having a bounty hunter on the payroll helps guarantee an individual out on bail will show up for court.

State Laws
In some states, like Illinois, Kentucky, and several others, bounty hunting is either heavily restricted or banned entirely. Colorado and a handful of other states have no laws directly regarding bounty hunters within their bounds. In states like Oregon, a bounty hunter must have a warrant to make an arrest. Texas requires a bounty hunter to be a peace officer, an armed security officer, or a private investigator. Louisiana requires that bounty hunters wear identifying clothing, while Florida requires special licensing known as a “limited surety agent” license from the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Agent and Agency Licensing in order to legally apprehend bail fugitives.

Laws Regarding Weapons

Bounty hunters must follow all laws in regards to weapons or risk arrest themselves. Should they need to cross state lines and feel the need to carry a weapon, they must possess a permit in the state they are entering to have said weapon. Many states prohibit bounty hunters from use of excessive force and carrying weapons while apprehending a fugitive. If they are found to have acted outside the law in regards to carrying a weapon, they can be arrested on a weapons violation.

Recovering A Fugitive

Depending on the laws in the state the fugitive is apprehended in, bounty hunters do not need a warrant to take a fugitive into custody if the fugitive is on their own property. However, in most other states, bounty hunters must have a court order to make a bail-related arrest and cannot enter the property of a friend or relative of the fugitive without either a warrant or permission from the property owner. Should the bounty hunter be aware of the fugitive’s location in a residence that is not their own, the bounty hunter can contact local law enforcement to make the arrest. Once a bounty hunter has caught up with a fugitive, they have several tricks at their disposal to apprehend the fugitive. So long as the state allows bounty hunters within its borders to apprehend a fugitive, the bounty hunter can go so far as to disguise themselves a UPS delivery person or other such person to gain entry to the fugitive’s residence. Very few such apprehensions turn violent, mostly because violent offenders are generally not allowed out on bail. Most fugitives do nothing more than attempt to run away from the bounty hunter. Unless their own life is in jeopardy, most bounty hunters will not use force to apprehend the fugitive in question.

International Laws

In a case where a fugitive has fled the country, international laws exist to regulate the bounty hunter’s movements. Many of these laws are very strict. For example, Canada prohibits bounty hunting, and a bounty hunter who follows and apprehends a fugitive in Canada may stand to face kidnapping charges. Similarly, Mexico also treats such apprehension as kidnapping. Popular Duane Lee “Dog” Chapman was arrested in Mexico in 2003, charged with kidnapping in the case of Andrew Luster, for instance.

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