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Bounty Hunters...
Are They Legitimate Law Enforcement Agents?

Bounty hunters are paid to locate people who cannot be found. When the term bounty is used, it usually refers to payment made to individuals who have recently completed an act considered a public benefit. However, the term bounty is placed in proper context when a group of contracted people individually receive payment after he or she fulfills the terms of the contract they agreed to. On the other hand, people are usually rewarded after a job has been completed, for example a convicted criminal is located, even if several people are contracted to perform the task. Thus, the individual who completes the job is the only one paid.

In most cases, bounty hunters are hired to located people who have fled after posting bail or do not show up to scheduled court dates. In the United States, a lot of people flee after posting bail. During 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, one fourth of defendants not confined to jail awaiting trial fled before their scheduled trials. During the last 10 years, bounty hunters working in the United States located and detained nearly 25,000 convicted criminals. Bounty hunters locate almost all defends fleeing before their trials.

Court jurisdictions have permitted bounty hunters broad authority to locate and detain individuals fleeing to evade the legal process. This broad authority includes: the authority to detain fugitives after they are located, travel across state lines to hunt for fugitives, and the right to enter a convicted criminal�s home to detain him or her. Bounty hunters are usually vicariously granted authority already granted to bail bond specialists.

People have contracted bounty hunters as far back as the middle ages. In fact, the concept of bail existed prior to the development of English law. An 1872 court case, Taylor v. Taintor, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 366, 21 L.Ed. 287 (1872) is the basis of bounty hunters� legal protections in America. The Supreme Court wrote, "Where one charged with crime is released upon bail, he is regarded as being delivered to custody of his sureties. Their dominion is a continuance of the original imprisonment." This ruling has never been overturned.

Since state authorities can do little to regulate bounty hunters, the activities of bounty hunters has recently become a source of controversy. Certain state legislators have responded by passing laws placing restrictions on what bounty hunters can do. During 1998, the Arizona State Legislator passed legislation preventing bounty hunters from entering a person�s home without his or her permission, imitating police officers, and placing restrictions on people who can work as bounty hunters if they have been found guilty of breaking certain laws.

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