Archive for June, 2008
Bounty Hunting in the State of Georgia
Okay everyone who has been waiting and biting their fingernails. Now is the time to get down to the nitty gritty of Bounty Hunting.
Since I am from the beautiful state of Georgia and since that is where I got my degree and started my path of finding those who don’t wish to be found, I will start there.
The term used in Georgia for Bounty Hunters is “Bail Recovery Agents”. This title suggests that the person who performs services or takes action for the purpose of apprehending the principal (the jumper) on a bail bond which had been granted in the State of Ga. or the capturing a fugitive who has escaped from bail in Ga. for gratuity, benefit or compensation.
Bail Recovery agents have to take continuing education in order to stay up to date on all the new laws regarding jumpers and warrants. Every January they have to take a class which is monitored by the Bonding Department which is responsible for that jurisdiction.
Now, on to the fun.
Once the jumper fails to make his first appearance to plea his case then the judge forfeits the bond and orders an execution hearing of not sooner than 120 days from that day. Notice of the execution hearing shall be served within 10 days from the failure to appear date. It can be served either by mail or overnight delivery to the bonding company. Once the notice is mailed the clock starts ticking. Time to start looking for the jumper before the bonding company loses all of the bond money. No bonding agency wants to lose thousands of dollars because the defendant doesn’t want to go to court.
As a hunter when I went into a county other than my own, I had to notify the local law enforcement agency that I was there and who I was looking for. I could inform that jurisdiction any way I deemed fit. If an out of state hunter came into town, they had to produce the warrant for “failure to appear” from the city, county or state court which had produced it. They also had to produce the correction documentation showing they were licensed hunters. If the out of state agent doesn’t have to be licensed in his home state he must contact a Ga. hunter and they have to go with the out of state hunter to do the pickup.
Any hunter who fails to register with local enforcement or who is otherwise unqualified – and still tries to do a pick up or succeeds in doing the pickup will be charged with a misdemeanor if he is convicted of the first charge. If unqualified hunters does it again and gets charged he is charged with a felony. He can be sentenced to prison for 1-5 years.
If the bondsman hires an unqualified hunter he also can be charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense Ga. Code 17-6-56 and 17-6-57.
Bounty hunter must be at least 25 years old, must be a U.S. citizen, must obtain a gun permit, and must notify the local police of the intended arrest. Bondsmen must register with the sheriff of the county in which the bondsman is a resident all bail recovery agents that he employs. A bounty hunter must carry identification cards issued by bondsman, which describe the bounty hunter’s physical appearance, and contains the bondsman’s signature. Bounty hunter cannot wear clothing or carry badges suggesting that he is a public employee. An out of state recovery agent must be able to prove that he is licensed in his home state, or hire a Georgia bounty hunter if there is no licensing law in his home state. Ga. Code § 17-6-56 through 17-6-58.
The second conviction will be considered a felony and the bonding agent can also be sentenced to 1-5 years as well as a fine of up to 10,000.
No hunter can carry or display any uniform, badge, shield card or other items with any printing which indicates or eludes the that agent belonging to any state of or federal government. In other words, a hunter can not in any way elude, state of pretend he is with law enforcement. He isn’t! If he does the hunter can be charged and convicted of (you guessed it a felony) and can go directly to jail for 1-5 years plus be charged 10,000 in fines.
Now for the part you all have been waiting for. As Bail Recovery Agents we have to be very careful when we go onto a property which may or may not have the jumper. We have to watch what we say, how we say it and no we can’t kick in doors. If we do cause any damage to the location well guess what- we can be charged with destruction of property. If we try to pick up the wrong person we can be charged with assault and if we draw our weapon we can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Personally I don’t want to become the hunted and I really don’t want fork over money in fines.
In the State of Ga. as hunters we can carry a weapon however, we have to have a CWP better known as a concealed weapons permit. We have to abide by the laws of that permit. We cannot carry it into banks, schools etc. We are run through a background check by every known law enforcement agency out there. So nothing is hidden. If a hunter has a felony record, had been admitted to a facility for suicide attempts, has been charged and convicted of spousal or child abuse, or has been other than honorable discharged from the military no permit will be issued. They can still hunt, they just can’t carry a firearm.
If we cause damage to the property or the person we are liable for all costs involved for repairs or medical. We also stand to be charged with civil suits.
So armed with my knowledge, my warrant and my partners we start looking for what is known as cold cases. These are my favorite. They are cases which are getting to the end of the clock. The bonding company is getting ready to sign the check over to the courts.
One of the first cases I worked involved a young man from Jamaica. He should have gone down as one of the stupid jumpers. He should have been given that sign.
Anyway, we got the jacket (case file) and went to work. He had been arrested on a drunk driving charge in downtown Atlanta. His sister had made her way to the bonding agency next door to the jail (how convenient) and signed his bond. When he retrieved his belongings from the desk sergeant he was told he was free to go.
Which is exactly what he did. He went and was not heard from again. That is until the night my partners picked him back up getting out of the car at his sister’s apartment. But I digress.
I got the jacket and we had less the five days to find our boy. So I went to work. I started with his sister who had signed his bond. She pretended that she had no idea where he was or if he was coming back. She played her part very well. And I played mine. I pretended that I believed her. I went to the next name on the list his employer again, they had no clue. I called friends and foe alike. It appeared he had fallen off the face of the earth. But I knew better. They love to hide in plain sight. They think they become invisible. Right!
For three days I called everyone on his list and for those three days I continued to try and find the sister’s address. She had left that information off the paperwork. Silly Girl.
Anyway, through my ability and cunning and power of persuasion I finally found an address for the sister.
I called my partners and told them I had it. I also told them that he would show up at her residence. That was part of his comfort zone. He would show. So being the ever vigilant and believing partners they were they went to the apartment complex and waited. And waited and waited and waited. I am sure they were calling me everything they could think of.
Anyway, about 11:00pm my partners saw a car which resembled the jumper’s – the tag number matched. So it was safe to assume that if was our man.
My partners waited for him to park and get out. They slowly vacated the stakeout car and walked very carefully up to our quarry.
They called out his name and he stopped and turned around to see who was calling him. One of my partners had his cuffs already out and the other one was ready to draw his weapon if needed.
Once it was established that it was indeed our boy, he was shown the failure to appear warrant, cuffed and stuffed into the back of the SUV.
On the way back to downtown Atlanta jail he was asked why he had not shown up in court. Are you ready for this answer? Come on now try to guess, don’t peek.
Okay I will tell you.
His answer was “When the man told me I could go, that I was done, I thought it was finished. I didn’t know I was supposed to go to court.” That my friends- was a direct quote.
When my partners called me and told me they had our boy and what he had said, my response was “Here’s your sign.”
The beauty of being a hunter is we know the criminal is not that bright even though they pretend to be. We know what they are thinking, what they are doing and where they will go before they do. They always go to that comfort zone. They always go back to that place they feel safe. They always contact those who are on the reference list which is in the jacket. They always slip up. It just takes a lot of patience, time and waiting.
Next Monday I will talk about Florida and if a hunter can cross over from another state to pick up a jumper from Ga.
Correctional Officer Donna Fitzgerald, 51
Florida Department of Corrections
On June 25, 2008, Officer Fitzgerald, a 13 year DOC veteran, was ambushed and sexually assaulted by an inmate at the Tomoka Correctional Institution. The officer was killed during the brutal assault.
Police Officer Nicholas Heine, 30
Pueblo Colorado Police Department
On Saturday June 21, 2008, Officer Heine was engaged in a foot pursuit after breaking up several bar fights when he suddenly collapsed. Efforts by fellow officers to revive Heine were not successful. He died a short time later at the hospital. It’s believed he had suffered a heart attack.
The officer was a nine year veteran, and leaves behind a wife and two daughters. Officer Heine’s mother is also employed by the Pueblo PD.
Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, 22
Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice
On June 20, 2008, Officer Rivera was conducting the 4:00pm count at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater, California when he was stabbed to death by two inmates. The prisoners used homemade knives (shanks) to commit the horrific murder. Rivera had only worked for the BOP for approximately ten months.
Officer Rivera was also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.