TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner which would regulate bounty hunters, and prohibit those with criminal records from acting as bounty hunters, following questions of the safety and effectiveness of the profession, was released without recommendation by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee today.
“Unless we put certain common-sense restrictions on bounty hunters, we’re going to end up with a tragedy on our hands,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Bounty hunters are not policemen, and should not have the freedom to act as such.”
Senator Turner’s bill, S-2829, would provide a number of safety and regulatory checks on the bounty hunter profession in New Jersey. Specifically, to conduct business in New Jersey, all fugitive recovery agencies must register with the Superintendent of State Police, and bounty hunters and their employees must all undergo a criminal history background check before they can work in the State. The bill also clarifies that bounty hunters do not get special consideration in regards to the right to carry arms, and must undergo the same process civilians would, and prohibits bounty hunters from operating with any special police powers.
“Currently there is little regulation of fugitive recovery agents, and that’s just dangerous,” said Senator Turner. “Despite whatever romanticized ideals bounty hunters may have of their profession, they are not defenders of the law — they are nothing more than hired mercenaries. They have absolutely no justification for special police powers, and no authorization under the law — we need to clarify this before someone gets killed.”
According to Senator Turner, the need for the bill was underscored by a November case in which four agents of Tri-State Fugitive Investigations broke into a house on Passaic Street in Trenton. At the time, the senator argued that this situation was a first-class example of why the power of bounty hunters has to be held in check by State regulation and scrutiny. Senator Turner added that bounty hunters traditionally point to a 19th century U.S. Supreme Court decision to grant them certain quasi-governmental powers and privileges, but noted that such powers are not in keeping with today’s world.
“Historically, we’ve given bounty hunters a long leash, possibly because in our past, they served a purpose in society,” said Senator Turner. “They may still be useful in bringing in fugitives, but the fact of the matter is that many bounty hunters have either abused the privileges they claim to have, or they’ve acted downright illegally and immorally. We need to put greater scrutiny on the profession as a whole, and make sure the fugitive recovery agents operate within the boundaries of the law, and are not operating as unregulated vigilantes.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.