The Legal Precedents Outlawing Bounty Hunter and Bail Bondsman Jobs in Oregon

Oregon is just one of four states in the nation (Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin being the other three) that prohibits commercial bondsmen, bounty hunters, and the commercial bail bonds business.

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Since the 1970s, Oregon has been operating on a 10 percent deposit for bail. In other words, if someone is held on a $50,000 bond, they could be released on just $5,000, paid to the clerk of court. If the defendant doesn’t show for court dates, the court then puts a warrant out for his arrest and he is liable for the full bond. The courts acting as bail bondsmen essentially meant the end of the bail bondsman business in Oregon.

However, it should be noted that the vast majority of defendants in Oregon are released on conditional release, meaning that no money is posted for their bond.

According to Benton County’s District Attorney John Haroldson: Attempting to regulate bail bondsmen and bounty hunters “can easily outweigh their benefits.” He goes on to say that states that use commercial bail bondsmen and bounty hunters exploit the citizens through “these profit-driven enterprises.”

Opponents of Oregon’s bond system, however, say that the cost to government is too great, as law enforcement officers must be paid to apprehend the fugitive, and the jurisdiction loses money if the defendant doesn’t pay bond. In other words, commercial bail bond businesses produce revenue for the government, not a loss.

State v. Epps.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in the case of State v. Epps (October 1978) that bounty hunting was, essentially, considered kidnapping, thereby outlawing bounty hunting in the state, as well.

The law states that a defendant can only be released from custody in one of three ways: a deposit bond; his own recognizance; or conditional release. The Oregon Supreme Court, in State v. Epps, essentially abolished the broad common law rights of both bail bondsmen and bounty hunters in Oregon.

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Further, the Oregon Supreme Court applied the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, which prohibited bounty hunters from taking defendants across state lines. In other words, if a fugitive skips bail in another state and travels to Oregon, a bounty hunter is not permitted to travel to Oregon to make an arrest. If a bounty hunter attempts to apprehend a fugitive in Oregon, the law states that the bounty hunter could be found guilty of kidnapping and/or false imprisonment. The result: many fugitives have fled to Oregon to elude authorities.

Introduced or Pending Legislation for Commercial Bail Bond Businesses

To date, there is no current or pending legislation in the State of Oregon that seeks to change the current laws. However, protest by lobbyists is putting to pressure on these states to re-establish bonding for profit.