Since Monday night’s tragic warrant service attempt in Cromwell, the public has been using the StaceyPageOnline.com Facebook page debating the rights and laws bounty hunters, or recovery agents, have. Some are berating the bounty hunters calling what they did a possible homicide. Others, like bail bondsmen Aaron Alfano and Curtis Stavedahl, defend the men’s actions citing both state and federal laws.
Amy Williams Adams said on the FB forum, “Bounty hunters are NOT police … they are people who make money off our flawed criminal justice system and who often THINK they are police … HUGE DIFFERENCE.”
John Reed, however, countered, “If you look at the law, bounty hunters actually have more arrest powers than the police. Generally when a person signs a bail bond contract, they’re waiving their Constitutional rights and are agreeing that they can be arrested by a bail bond agent. Bounty hunters do not need an arrest warrant, simply a copy of the bond paperwork.”
Alfano and Stavedahl say both individuals are correct. “We are not law enforcement,” said Stavedahl, “however, we do have the authority to arrest the principal or person at any time by virtue of Indiana Code 27-10-2-7.”
Recovery agents, also known as bounty hunters, rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1872 ruling in the Taylor v. Taintor case. The court’s decision has never been overruled and gives the bounty hunters authority to seize and imprison a person, to pursue a person to another state and to use deadly force if justified in serving warrants or revoking bonds.
IC 35-41-3-3 clearly lays out the law noting, “A person other than a law enforcement officer is justified in using reasonable force against another person to effect an arrest or prevent the other person’s escape if (a) a felony has been committed and (b) there is probable cause to believe the other person committed that felony.”
Section 2 of that same Indiana Code enables bounty hunters justification for “deadly force” if they first give warning to the individual to cease dangerous actions and if they believe the subject poses a threat of serious bodily injury to either the bounty hunter or other individuals.
Tim Ellis posted on the same Facebook discussion, “Actually, if the bounty hunter went in to the residence without permission the guy had the right to defend himself. This could end up being a homicide.”
Justin Holler countered, “The bounty hunter has every right to enter the residence if the suspect is in there and he has a warrant. And just like any other case, if a firearm was drawn and pointed at the recovery agent, he has the right to defend himself. That’s law.”
Stavedahl said, “I believe 150 percent, if I was there and I saw Gary (Helman) on that porch, or in a doorway, or in a window, I would have absolutely advanced in breaching the house. Absolutely.”
The law gives the recovery agents the right to seize fugitives without a warrant at any time of the day or night at the fugitive’s home. That includes breaking into the fugitive’s home and to use whatever force is necessary to obtain custody. Both Alfano and Stavedahl said, however, they always have a warrant or Order to Produce with them. And Tadd Martin also had the warrants in hand when he went to Helman’s residence Monday night.
And while Alfano also agreed that, with 100 percent visual confirmation, he would have also proceeded in gaining entry to the house, neither he nor Stavedahl is willing to venture a guess on the shootout that ensued. They believe the investigation by police officials will determine what exactly happened and if any repercussions will come from it.
“Until the investigation is complete, I don’t think we should point fingers or speculate,” said Alfano. “But, if Gary pulled a weapon, aimed at them, pulled a gun out of his pants, whatever, at that point there would have been imminent danger to their lives, to their well being and at that point, that would be a justifiable use of lethal force.”
Before any bounty hunter/ recovery agent can act, however, they must first be eligible. Those requirements include
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must have resided in the state for the past six months
- Must pass the state licensing exam
- Provide a credit history report
- Must have completed the 12 hour pre-licensing education
- Must be at least ten years since any felony conviction or five years since any misdemeanor conviction
- Must possess the funds for the $300 licensing fee
- Must notify the sheriff of the county where they reside of their status as a bail recovery agent
Further, candidates must complete the 12 hour pre-licensing education and then take and pass the bail recovery agent exam.
Stavedahl, who knows the bounty hunters involved in Monday night’s incident said, “It’s a brotherhood … I’ve personally bounty hunted with them a few times” and he called them “good guys.”
Alfano added, “We all just want to go home at the end of the night … We’re all careful, but there’s no normal recovery; nothing is ever the same. You never know what’s on the other side of the door when you knock on it.”
“This may be a black eye for us so to speak,” Stavedahl said of public opinion, “but I hope it also raises awareness to how dangerous our jobs are. This is our reality.”