Should There Be a National Law to Regulate Bounty Hunters?

While many bounty hunters feel strongly that their profession should not be tightly regulated, at least one major professional organization disagrees. Tired of the bad press from rogue bounty hunters, the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents (NAFRA) favors stronger regulation.

While all but four states allow bounty hunters who are private citizens to track down fugitives, about one-third of the states that do allow the practice don’t license armed bounty hunters. Bounty hunters in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have particularly hands-off approaches from their state governments.

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Given the high stakes involved and the potential high pay, the profession draws some bad apples. For instance, Boston self-proclaimed fugitive recovery agent Kirk Figueroa made the national news when he shot two police officers with a tactical shotgun when they responded to a domestic disturbance call at his residence.

Chuck Jordan, the head of NAFRA, argues that imposing federal rules on the training of bounty hunters and instigating background checks will weed out dubious characters with criminal backgrounds who turn to the lucrative field of bounty hunting.

On the other side of the issue are a number of bounty hunters who fear that such regulations will hamper their ability to do business. Wyoming Fugitive Investigations bounty hunter Michael O’Halloran points out that a Supreme Court decision from 1873 gives them every right to break down the door without a warrant if the house is known to contain a fugitive.

Some measures suggest that the current system works well since nearly 90% of the people who jump bail get nabbed. Some of the most successful bounty hunters resort to trickery to nail fugitives that minimizes the amount of violence involved. For instance, bounty hunters with Wyoming Fugitive Investigations have been known to dress up as a FedEx delivery person and knock on a door holding an empty box.

It remains to be seen whether the long history of independent bounty hunters will continue or whether the feds will crack down on the practice. Fugitive recovery agents do fill a void, since many police officers find the long stakeouts involved in catching fugitives to not be worth their time.

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