MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday, a gunfight between a wanted Minnesota man and two bounty hunters in Texas ended with all three men dead.
They had tracked the suspect to a car dealership outside Dallas. The deadly shootout reminded everyone how dangerous catching criminals can be. So, what are bounty hunters allowed to do? Good Question.
For some in the profession, bounty hunter is an outdated term. Instead, they are referred to as bail investigators, warrant investigators or bail enforcement agents.
“We look for people who have failed to appear in court,” says Stew Peters, a bounty hunter with U.S. Fugitive Apprehension and Recovery. He doesn’t mind the bounty hunter terminology.
Bail enforcement agents are required to follow Minnesota law. Under state law, they’re allowed to make arrests under the authority derived from the bail bond.
When people are released on bail bonds, they are required to sign some documentation. Within that documentation, they waive rights they would normally have – like refusing consent to searching their home, social media or talking with family members. In some ways, Peters says that gives him more leeway than law enforcement.
“They haven’t signed away their rights to Minneapolis Police department. If we’re going to force entry into a home, we can’t be an agent to them nor them an agent of us,” says Peters. “We’re careful not to blur those lines so as not to violate anybody’s rights.”
Bail enforcement agents are not required to be licensed in Minnesota. Each state has different requirements. For example, Texas requires its agents to be licensed private investigators. There is an effort underway in the Minnesota state legislature to consider licensure requirements in Minnesota.
Peters says his small team is made up of former military or law enforcement. He does require significant training in firearms, tasers, handcuffing and building searches. He also has K-9, use of force and deadly force policies.
“Most people cooperate with our agency because we’re careful to put our team in a safe and tactical position where there’s nowhere they can go and we can talk with that person,” he says.
He says he always notifies local law enforcement before coming into their area, even if it’s simple surveillance. They share details like vehicle descriptions, what his team is wearing, who they’re looking for and the target addresses they’re watching.
“Another thing is to protect us is because a neighbor could see us and say there’s suspicious vehicle here, and then you got four squad cars and that blows up their spot,” he says. “There’s a lot of opinions with law enforcement about what we do as bounty hunters as a whole. Those who have worked alongside of us very much appreciate what we do.”