When wannabes try to be professionals . . .

. . . 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.

Peter

11 comments

  1. I heartily agree with your sentiment, Peter. I've always felt the idea of bounty hunters is anathema to modern law enforcement. With the thousands of LE agencies at work throughout our country, most of whom are (over)supervised by a chain of superiors who are accountable to the citizens of their jurisdictions, we see all to often mistakes which often amount to malpractice and outright illegality. With guns involved more often than not, these errors in judgment or legal behavior have deadly consequences. It would be interesting to hear Lawdog's take on this topic.

    TC

  2. The state of Kentucky has banned both bail bondsmen and bounty hunters. The accused pays his bail (or percentage thereof) to the state and gets the money back if not convicted or has the money applied to any fines arising from the case.

    Bounty hunters from other states are supposed to obtain a Kentucky warrant for the "jumper" and have them arrested by a Kentucky police agency.

  3. I was always sceptical about bounty hunters until I served on a jury for a serial rapist named Andrew Luster. Luster was the heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune and had a life of wealth and leisure in California, until he was charged with drugging and raping many women.

    Long story short, halfway through the trial he jumped bail and fled to Mexico. The trial continued without him and, in absentia, he was found guilty.

    Months passed, and despite the best efforts of the FBI and other LEO agencies, Luster remained free, somewhere south of the US border.

    He was finally apprehended in Mexico by Dog the Bounty Hunter. (Yes, that Dog).

    Luster is now serving a very long sentence in the California prison system.

    Without Dog the Bounty Hunter, I suspect Luster would still be enjoying himself somewhere in Central or South America, funded by his family's abundant money.

    I'm not a big fan of Dog, but he did what the best law enforcement agencies in the US couldn't or wouldn't do – he took a crew to Mexico and using old fashioned leg work tracked down this vile specimen and apprehended him.

    Law enforcement is spread thin, and often forced to deal with miles of red tape, especially when trying to cross jurisdictions. I believe bail agents serve an important role pursuing bad guys that cops can't or won't find.

  4. The stupidity displayed is just… Just… Beyond belief! There is no way that should have ever happened, but I think you're right. Ego, 'claiming' to be Feds, etc. makes them think they are invulnerable. Not so much!

  5. I think this is part of a larger problem of people is this country getting used to claiming more authority and more power than they actually have; I'm not sure what the root of it is, but it is a bad thing.
    I work for a federal regulatory agency and have a badge and credentials; I have very limited scope and essentially no authority, but I've heard stories of people in my agency trying to use it in a variety of ways that help themselves personally.

    Any time that people have law enforcement authority, they need to be carefully trained and fully cognizant of their limitations, but many don't, leading to situations like this and the hatred by many of law enforcement.

    Have you ever heard of 'concealed carry' badges? I think they are a REALLY bad idea and should be illegal!

  6. re: concealed carry badges

    The older I get, the less I trust cops. Too often, they get away with things that would send civilians to jail.

    One of my fears is that I would survive a self-defense situation, only to be gunned down by a nervous cop who only sees me as a man with a gun. Naturally, because of officer safety, he'd get off from that scott free.

    THAT's the main reason I think of those badges. To cause a nervous cop to pause long enough to do his actual job.

    I don't actually have one, BTW.

  7. So incredibly stupid it would defy belief without the video.

    Thankfully no innocent bystanders were hurt, which is pretty much a miracle!

    Luckily for the rest of us, Darwin decided to tag along, thus insuring that the gene pool got a good scrubbing.

  8. Cops shoot and kill innocents every single day and get away with it. Lawmen are a vice that we must shoulder to live in a civil society but they really need to stop shooting everybody that strikes their ire. Some people are more than willing to shoot back now and they'll get a pass from me should I ever be impaneled on a jury.

  9. Obviously, since this is a television news report, there is information being left out… but it seems to me to be common sense that if someone is claiming to be a federal agent, or a police officer, you ask them for their warrant (if any) and their ID and call their home office to confirm that they are who they say they are, and the purpose for which they are camping out on or invading your property.

  10. My guess is the bounty hunters did not say they were federal agents. They said "we're with U.S. Fugitive Apprehension" and let the dealership employees make the obvious assumption. A quick web search also shows a company "U.S. Fugitive Recovery Bureau". These are clearly named to make anybody working for them sound official.

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