Bounty Hunting, Bail Bondsman and California State Law

Bounty hunting or what is referred by the legal system as “fugitive recovery services” is a term that now evokes images of the wild-west or the likes of “Dog” the Bounty Hunter made popular by the television series on bounty hunting. This semi-fictional character which portends to be reality TV, gives the industry a bad name. If Bounty Hunters were like “Dog”, California bondsman would all be sued for civil rights violations.  The fact is that bounty hunting is very much a part of the American system of justice today.

In the US, bounty hunting is rooted in the bail bonds process.  If the terms of bail are broken, a bail agent is authorized to find and return the defendant to police custody, hence the need for bounty hunting.  A bail bondsman can do their own bounty hunting or contract with an individual or company that is licensed to provide bounty hunting services.

In September 1999, California enacted law A 243 regulating bounty hunters, termed “bail fugitive recovery persons” in the statute. This law added section 1299 to the California Penal Code. The bail fugitive recovery person is defined as one who has written authorization by a bail agent contracted to investigate, monitor, locate, and arrest a bail fugitive for surrender to appropriate authorities, or any person employed to assist in the arrest of such a fugitive.  Certification for fugitive recovery was granted only to those who could demonstrate knowledge of state laws and can pass a background check could work as bounty hunters.

Unfortunately, CPC 1299 had a sunset clause and the California State Legislature allowed it to lapse. California no longer has control over the bounty hunters and the bail industry is in an uproar over this. The legitimate bail agencies want to see restrictions and rules governing bounty hunters. The bail bonds industry in California is imploring the state legislature to re-enact CPC 1299; for the protection of public safety and common sense.