Bail bond officers, sometimes also known as bail recovery agents, are more popularly known as bounty hunters. The words might conjure up images of horse-riding bounty hunters back in the wild west, hunting and tracking fugitives cross-country for the amount of their bounty. These days, modern-day bounty hunters go by a more politically correct name: bail bond enforcement officers; and they have also shucked off the wild persona of their wild west predecessors (at least for the most part). In essence, however, their function is the same: to bring back a fugitive to the jurisdiction of the court where they were released on bail, in exchange for some monetary compensation. Perhaps another, and more crucial difference now is that bail bond enforcement officers are no longer acting as free agents where different bounty hunters may have considered it a contest among them to see who could bring back a fugitive. Mostly, bail bond enforcement officers these days are hired directly by the bail bondsman because of their interest in having the defendant brought back to the court’s jurisdiction, thus eliminating the atmosphere of “hunting” that may once have been impressed upon the profession, more info about this can be found at bail bonds san diego website.
There may be an understandable level of confusion on whether or not bounty hunters can be considered as law enforcement officers. After all, regarding purposes, they have something in common: their interest is to bring a fugitive back to the jail, or more appropriately, to the jurisdiction of the court where their case is being tried. But the commonality ends there. Bail Bond enforcement officers are not law enforcement officers. And here’s why:
Law enforcement officers such as the police and deputies from the sheriff’s department work to keep the peace, promote peace and order, and implement the laws on behalf of the duly constituted state government. Other law enforcement officers such as the FBI are federal officers, and they work on behalf of the duly constituted government of the United States. Bounty hunters, on the other hand, are beholden to no such higher authority. They are private contractors who do their job based on a private contract.
Speaking from a practical level, though, many of those who do work as bail bond enforcement agents have backgrounds either in law enforcement or even in the military. In many instances, the skill set that is required is the same, whether in terms of being investigators or in dealing with dangerous individuals.
Our law enforcement officers are held to a high standard of conduct – they are bound to uphold the constitution and the bill of rights, particularly the constitutional provisions against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to counsel. Being agents of the state, they are bound by the laws that they work to uphold. There are limitations on what they could do when dealing with an accused, including state statutes that govern the conduct and authority of law enforcement officials.
Bail bond enforcement officers, on the other hand, are not so circumscribed in their conduct.
For one thing, they are not beholden to the bill of rights primarily because the bill of rights was drafted to protect civilians and private individuals against the state and its agents. Strictly speaking, bail bond enforcement officers are also civilians and private individuals, too. The bill of rights provisions on the rights of the accused do not, therefore, apply to them.
And yet, while law enforcement officers are expected to adhere to principles governing legal arrests such as having a warrant and reading the accused their rights, a bail bond enforcement officer can conduct an arrest regardless of these principles. In 1872, the Supreme Court ruled in Taylor v. Taintor that bounty hunters can “pursue [a fugitive] into another State, arrest him on the Sabbath; and, if necessary, break and enter his house for that purpose.” The reason for this wider latitude in authority for bounty hunters is because they are acting on the power of the contract which the fugitive signed with the bail bondsman. In effect, when a defendant signs a contract with a bail bondsman promising to appear on the court dates in exchange for the security that the bail bondsman will be putting up on his behalf, he also agrees to the bail bondsman’s right to apprehend him should he abscond. So technically speaking, the fugitive agreed to the bounty hunter’s authority to come onto his property to arrest him.
Still, to a certain extent, the bounty hunter profession does adhere to certain restrictions. The use of more than a reasonable force to effect an arrest could potentially lead to criminal charges. And abusing a fugitive makes for a bad rep in the business that may result in bail bondsmen not hiring them again. After all, it is also the bail bond agent’s business reputation that is at stake – no one is likely to sign with him if his agents are known to deal roughly with skips.