New Minnesota Law Prohibits Bounty Hunters From Appearing to be Law Enforcement Officers

Up until July 1, 2015, Minnesota law allows a bail bondsman to drive a vehicle that looks like a police car and dress like a peace officer. The only way a bounty hunter would violate the law in this case is by literally identifying himself as a police officer.

Local law enforcement agencies expressed concern that a bounty hunter in Red Wing was being mistaken for a law enforcement officer (LEO). Stew Peters drove a vehicle marked like a police car, carried a gun, and wore a badge. Even seasoned LEOs thought he was a federal agent, and officers in Washaba County spent two hours working with him before they later realized that he was a bail bondsman.

Security guards are currently prohibited from appearing to be LEOs, and Senator Matt Schmit pushed for legislation to make bail bondsmen subject to the same restrictions. The bill passed and was signed by Governor Mark Dayton.

Bounty hunters will be prohibited from wearing uniforms that are the same color as LEO uniforms in Minnesota—brown, blue, maroon, or green. These professionals will also be prohibited from driving vehicles that are the same color as those used by LEOs and cannot have emblems such as a star or police shield on their car.

Peters told the Post-Bulletin that he does have law enforcement training and that he has helped with 104 arrests of fugitives since founding his bounty hunting business in 2014. He claims that 81 of those arrests were for felonies such as rape, assault, and murder.   The bounty hunter received a lot of media attention last year for helping to bring a wanted fugitive back to Rochester from California.

However, high-level law enforcement officers were among those who approached Schmit to ask for the change in the law. One of them was Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin who told the Post-Bulletin that his office and other law enforcement agencies had been getting calls from people confused about exactly who Peters was.

While some law enforcement officers do express their gratitude at the help they have received from bounty hunters, the consensus in this case seems to be that the new law will help allay confusion about the exact role of bounty hunters in Minnesota.