Yvonne Mason: Hunting Bail Jumpers in Tennessee

Yvonne Mason


As promised, here are the bounty hunting laws in the great state of Tennessee.

If one wants to hunt jumpers in Tennessee one must apply and get a copy of their own criminal background and present it to the Department of Insurance. (T.C.A. 40-11-317)

Each year, every professional bondsman who is licensed to do business in Tennessee has to file with the clerk of the circuit court of every county they furnish bonding money- hunt etc. a report of the assets and liabilities no later than July 15th.(T.C.A. 40-11-303)

They will also get 8 hours of continuing education during each twelve month period beginning Jan 1, 1997. (T.C. A. 40-11-401)

Now comes the fun part. The authority of the Bail Agent to arrest:

The bail bondsman/hunter may arrest the defendant on a certified copy of the undertaking, at any place either in or out of the state or may by written authority endorsed on such copy, authorize another person to make the arrest. (T.C.A. 40-11-133)

No person who has been “convicted of a felony” shall serve as a bounty hunter in the State of Tennessee. If one who has been convicted poses as a hunter he can be charged and or convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor.

Now this is where it really gets fun.

Before a hunter takes into custody any person who has failed to appear in court, such bounty hunter shall comply with 40-11-401, they shall make a good faith effort to verify the person’s address and present to the office of the appropriate law enforcement officer of the political subdivision where the taking shall occur.

They must show:

A Certified copy of the underlying criminal process against the defendant; a certified copy of the bond or capias; proper credentials from a professional bondsman in Tennessee or another state verifying that the bounty hunter is an agent of a professional bondsman and a pocket cart certifying that the bounty hunter has completed the training required by this section or if the bounty hunter is from a state other than Tennessee, proof that such bounty hunter successfully completed an equivalent amount of training in the bounty hunter’s home state within the last year.

Failure to present all of the above can cause said hunter to be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

Now you all probably are wondering why the states all have laws concerning hunters and why some states won’t even allow hunters. Well, I am glad you asked. I have the answer for you.

United States Supreme Court: Taylor v Taintor 16 Wall, 36

August 1997 was a red letter day and not in a good way. A couple in Phoenix, Ar. was murdered by five intruders who presented themselves as bounty hunters. The national media jumped on this story and reported it as a pick up gone south. By the time it was determined that it was not hunters but instead very bad men the story was shelved.

Even though the fake hunters had three murder convictions and two trials pending, the public and officials were left with the mythical residue of abuses by hunters. The reaction was such a knee jerk reaction that many legislatures response to this brutal murder was to regulate hunters.

In 1998 14 states dropped bills on this topic. In 1999, 26 states proposed legislation. Not every bill passed. Other states carried the debate over into the next year.

While all states have some provision, not every state has laws which make a distinction between the bondsman and the hunter. Ten states added specific provisions for hunters to their codes and 13 states have legislation pending for that purpose.

I remember this case. I remember the media having a field day with this senseless murder. At the time my gut instinct told me it was probably a drug deal gone south. But no one ever heard the results of the trial, the charges, or the fact that it was not hunters who had killed those folks. It was the very ones hunters look for. How sad is that?

Some states are more rigid than others and then there are some such as Florida which says no way are hunters legal. In some states a hunter cannot carry his weapon into that state. He also have to go to the jurisdiction where he feels his jumper is and let law enforcement know he is there to do a pick up. In Tennessee law enforcement goes with the hunter to the location. I guess they want to protect the hunter and the criminal.