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bounty hunter

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  • Jurydoctor@aol.com
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    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2003
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      > States Crack Down on Bounty Hunters
      >
      > The Quicker
      > Picker-Uppers
      > Amid More Cases of Apparent Abuse, States Crack Down on Bounty Hunters
      >
      >
      > Jan. 30 — Bounty Hunter Billy Wells admits his profession has an image
      > problem.
      >
      >
      >
      > "There's a picture that pops up your mind when you say 'bounty hunter,'" he
      >
      > said. "You think of a thug."It's an image that is not helped by regular —
      > if
      > infrequent — horror stories of bounty hunters' apparent abuses and
      > mistakes,
      > such as the killing of a Virginia man last month. Police say a bounty
      > hunter
      > with criminal record raided the wrong home and fatally shot an innocent
      > man.
      > And it's more than just an image problem for those who make their living as
      >
      > skip tracers. Pressure from lawmakers is slowly reining in the storied
      > profession, eroding unparalleled freedoms born in the days of the Wild
      > West.
      >
      >
      >
      > Reality vs. ‘The Wild Bunch’
      >
      > Bounty hunters are hired by bail bond agents to track down and arrest
      > clients
      > who have failed to appear in court as required. They haul in an estimated
      > 30,000 bail jumpers every year, earning a typical fee of about 10 percent
      > of
      > the bail amount.
      >
      > The thousands of agents working in business range from private
      > investigators
      > and former police officers, to people like Crystal McElroy, a 26-year-old
      > mother of three who works as a bounty hunter in Santa Fe, N.M.
      >
      > The profession has long been a fixture of the American imagination,
      > appearing
      > in movies such as The Wild Bunch, Midnight Run, and even Star Wars. But the
      >
      > reality is usually not very glamorous, those in the industry say.
      >
      > Bounty hunters spend days tracking down and staking out their prey.
      > Professionals admit chases and high drama are rare, and many seasoned
      > agents
      > say they often just call the police when they've tracked down a
      > particularly
      > dangerous fugitive.
      >
      > Only a few hundred agents around the country are able to support themselves
      >
      > as full-time bounty hunters, experts say.
      >
      > "It's a tough business," said Wells. "I recommend to people — and I always
      > have — don't quit your day job."
      >
      > The ‘Rambo Approach’
      >
      > Most bounty hunters are responsible professionals, but traditionally,
      > virtually anyone could enter the field, and under a Supreme Court decision
      > in
      > 1872, they have enjoyed police-like powers. It's the freedom and the racy
      > image that have attracted some of the wrong sorts of people.
      >
      > "There's a lot of people who take the 'Rambo' approach," admits Dennis
      > Bartlett, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition.
      >
      > Something like that apparently is what happened in Virginia.
      >
      > A bounty hunter named James Dickerson allegedly went to the wrong home on
      > Christmas Eve while pursuing a fugitive. Dickerson and another man broke
      > down
      > the door, dragged a man outside and killed him, police said.
      >
      > Dickerson had a criminal record; his alleged victim, Roberto Martinez, did
      > not.
      >
      > In Virginia, as has been the case in many states, virtually anyone can work
      >
      > as a bounty hunter, without obtaining a license or undergoing a background
      > check. Horror stories like the Martinez case are not new.
      >
      > Earlier this year, two bail bondsmen in Fairfax, Va., were arrested after
      > allegedly taking money from a couple they had recaptured after posting bond
      >
      > for them, police there reported.
      >
      > In Houston last month, Thang Quoc Le pleaded not guilty to hiring a bounty
      > hunter to kill a man who had been seeing his wife.
      >
      > Last June, a 23-year-old man died after struggling with three bounty
      > hunters
      > in Kansas City. One of the men was charged with involuntary manslaughter
      > and
      > pleaded not guilty.
      >
      > Breaking Down the Door to Your Home — Legally
      >
      > The extensive power granted to bounty hunters stems from an 1872 U.S.
      > Supreme
      > Court decision, Taylor vs.Taintor. The high court ruled that a bail bond
      > agent or bounty hunter can pursue bail jumpers across state lines, break
      > into
      > their homes, and arrest him or her at anytime.
      >
      > These cases and others have highlighted the unusual police-like power and
      > latitude given to bounty hunters.
      >
      > Last year, the Ohio Supreme Court granted bounty hunter Michael Kole a new
      > trial, on the grounds that he had the legal authority to arrest a defendant
      >
      > "at any time or place." Kole had been convicted of abduction and burglary
      > after he and a partner had entered a fugitive's home and held the man at
      > gunpoint.
      >
      > With Little Success Curtailing Their Power…
      >
      > Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to curtail bounty hunters' powers,
      > generally
      > without success.
      >
      > Efforts were jumpstarted in 1997, after a young couple was killed in their
      > Phoenix, Ariz., home by men who claimed to be bounty hunters. The case
      > prompted Arizona to pass a law requiring bounty hunters to be licensed and
      > to
      > obtain permission before entering a home.
      >
      > Similar cases have periodically renewed interest in cracking down on the
      > profession in other states, but bounty hunters have fiercely fought such
      > efforts.
      >
      > Bartlett and other bounty hunter advocates insist it would be impossible to
      >
      > do the job without the power to make arrests and enter home without
      > warrants.
      >
      > "If you don't have some sort of coercive authority you're never going to
      > pick
      > the guy up," said Wells.
      >
      > Bounty hunters insist they are performing an important public function. The
      >
      > bail system helps combat jail overcrowding, they argue. Police are rarely
      > interested in pursuing bail jumpers charged with relatively minor offenses,
      >
      > so the job is left to skip tracers, industry officials say.
      >
      > …States Cracks Down on the ‘Scumbag Element’
      >
      > Instead of drastically limiting bounty hunters' capabilities, many states
      > have imposed restrictions on who can become a bail enforcement agent, as
      > those in the industry prefer to be called.
      >
      > California, for example, passed legislation in 2000 requiring
      > bail-enforcement agent to receive about two weeks of training and undergo a
      >
      > background check for felony convictions.
      >
      > The various state restrictions create a tangle of confusion for those in
      > the
      > business, though. In Texas, bounty hunters cannot carry fire arms, for
      > example, but in California they can. In some states they cannot carry a
      > badge
      > and wear identifying clothing, but in others they are required to do so.
      >
      > "There's so much gray area. Even the cops don't know what we can or can't
      > do," complains Wells.
      >
      > For many in the industry, some restrictions such as criminal background
      > checks are welcome.
      >
      > "What it's done is sort of driven the scumbag element out of the picture,"
      > says Bartlett, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition.
      >
      >

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