Is Oregon’s No-Bail Policy Backfiring?

According to Washington State’s bounty hunters, there’s a problem – and it’s not in Washington.

Oregon has, according to Washington’s bounty hunters, become a haven for criminals looking for a refuge from bounty hunters and law enforcement officials. Thanks to Oregon’s law banning commercial bounty hunters, fugitives are running there – and to other states – to escape warrants for their arrest.

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According to Jeremy Hubbard, from the Washington’s Bail Bondsmen Association, fugitives are “running to Oregon to hide.” He goes on to say that the warrant problem in Oregon is running “rampant right now.”

Oregon is just one of four states that prohibit private bail bond companies from operating in the state and, as a result, Hubbard says that a whopping 40 percent of all people arrested in Oregon fail to show up in court. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Washington’s failure to appear is less than 9 percent.

Bail enforcement is big business in Washington, as the private bonding company must pay the bond to the state within 60 days if the defendant does not appear for court. That certainly gives bail bond companies and bounty hunters plenty of incentive to locate and apprehend fugitives who fail to meet their court obligations.

However, if the defendant flees to Oregon, the hands of bounty hunters and bail bondsmen are, essentially, tied, as they have no legal right to pursue the defendant into Oregon. Instead, they are left with little choice but to ask the fugitive to voluntary return to the state. Oregon’s laws are so specific and clear that, should a bounty hunter arrest a fugitive in Oregon, they could be arrested for kidnapping.

For this reason alone, many nearby states are urging lawmakers in Oregon to reconsider their law regarding bounty hunters and commercial bail bonding. Currently, it is up to the counties to manage bail for defendants. Bail bondsmen argue that they could save the State of Oregon millions of dollars, while legislators in Oregon say that allowing commercial bail bondsmen to operate could compromise the civil rights of the suspects.

Oregon changed to a no-bail state around 1971, when it was found that felons were being hired to track down other felons, which led to more laws being broken. Since that time, however, a number of states have clearly defined the profession of bounty hunting and now require strict licensing requirements for bounty hunters. Recent attempts to change Oregon’s law as of late have failed.

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