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
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
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
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
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 personal papers.
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
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
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 activity.
"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." ~ Barry M. Baker
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