After eight years of a stumbling economy, a lot of Americans have found themselves out of work with no prospects of finding another way to earn a living. Some have even become so desperate they have turned to crime in an effort to provide for themselves. But some of those are not interested in stealing or robbing, they have become “Bounty Hunters.”
Bounty hunters have always been interesting figures in the American culture, especially in stories about the old west. Usually they are portrayed by stars like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Most often they are a sort of quasi-good guy with an attitude.
But sometimes, reality can catch up and pass fiction. Recently, in Greenville, Texas two bounty hunters found themselves trying to take down a fugitive that was a little more than what they had figured on. When the smoke cleared, both bounty hunters and their target fugitive were dead, proving once again that on-screen life is just not reality.
It used to be that bounty hunters made their own rules and most of their prey were wanted “Dead or Alive”, but today much of that has changed. In fact, bounty hunters now face a lot of regulations designed for the safety of not only their targets but themselves as well. Bounty hunting is not specific to the early west, in fact its roots go back to old English law, but the United States set up a bail system under which the accused could be released pending trial if they put up a judicially determined sum to be returned after the proceedings.
If one hires a bail bondsman to guarantee their bail, and then skips out, the bondsman may employ a bounty hunter to bring back the fugitive. Our Supreme Court officially recognized bounty hunters as part of the criminal justice system in the 1873 case Taylor v. Taintor.
Today, bounty hunters are properly known as Bail Enforcement Agents. Bounty hunters track and capture criminal fugitives. Requirements vary greatly from state to state. Some states are fairly unregulated, but Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin completely ban bounty hunting. Currently 22 states require licensing and many like California require formal training.
At least nine state have laws about what bounty hunters wear. In Iowa, they can’t put on a uniform that gives the impression they’re a member of law enforcement. Washington says they have to wear a shirt or vest with the words “Bail Bond Recovery Agent,” “Bail Enforcement Agent” or “Bail Enforcement” while making an arrest.
They must let officials know what they’re doing, local law enforcement must be notified when they plan to arrest someone. When they leave their home state to capture fugitives they must follow local laws. If they don’t follow these rules, they can be charged with crimes such as robbery, assault, kidnapping, impersonating an officer and murder.