. . . sometimes the results are as bad as they can possibly be. That was the case in Texas a couple of days ago.
Trouble is, despite all the claims of ‘professionalism’ and the like by bail enforcement agents, many of them are ‘cowboys’ – bragging about their prowess, proud of getting their man no matter what, ‘shading’ the law in the way they work (if not outright defying it), and carrying on as if they were big-shot lawmen.
Bail agents get their ‘license’ from an 1872 Supreme Court case, Taylor v. Taintor. The relevant paragraph of the court’s findings reads:
When bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their dominion is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up in their discharge; and if that cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another State; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of new process. None is needed. It is likened to the rearrest by the sheriff of an escaping prisoner. In 6 Modern it is said: “The bail have their principal on a string, and may pull the string whenever they please, and render him in their discharge.” The rights of the bail in civil and criminal cases are the same. They may doubtless permit him to go beyond the limits of the State within which he is to answer, but it is unwise and imprudent to do so; and if any evil ensue, they must bear the burden of the consequences, and cannot cast them upon the obligee.
The USA and the Philippines (a former US territory) are the only countries in the world where such broad license is given to bail enforcement agents (commonly known as ‘bounty hunters‘). In Texas, there are more stringent requirements for such individuals to operate than in most states. Nevertheless, the proportion of ‘cowboy’ bail agents, who scoff at the law and ‘do things their own way’, is rumored to be very high, to judge from comments I’ve heard from real law enforcement officers whom I know and respect personally.
I have some personal experience of the way these people operate. As a visiting prison chaplain, I was approached on more than one occasion by individuals claiming (at first) to be ‘law enforcement’ (but who, upon challenge, turned out to be bounty hunters). In each case, they wanted me to ask an imprisoned associate of the person they were seeking for information about his whereabouts. Needless to say, I refused to do anything of the sort, and in each case reported the approach to prison authorities. However, when the latter confronted the agents, they routinely denied ever having asked me to do anything of the sort, and said I must have ‘misunderstood’ them. (Yeah, right!)
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to hear that the two bail agents who died at that dealership had allegedly claimed to be Federal officers. That’s very much within their modus operandi, in my experience of such people, and I daresay many law enforcement officers will say the same. They seem to think that claiming official law enforcement status will somehow imbue them with a magical authority to go anywhere and do anything with impunity. Well, it won’t . . . and they can sometimes screw up really badly, as seven of them did just last month (for which they’re now facing charges of murder).
It’s my opinion that bail enforcement agents are an anachronism left over from an earlier age and style of law enforcement, and should be legally abolished. Others may differ, of course, but I think bounty hunters do far more harm than good. Certainly, the two who died in Greenville earlier this week made a great many mistakes, and placed many innocent lives at risk. If they hadn’t lost their lives in the shootout, I trust they would have been criminally charged and convicted.