Volume 110

Abolishing Bounty Hunters

by Lucas Hammill

Bounty hunters are creatures of the for-profit bail industry. They are private citizens hired by private-sector bail bond companies and vested with the power to arrest their fellow citizens. Unlike police officers, they are free from constitutional constraints. Bounty hunting, which is legal in only the United States and the Philippines, is a little discussed and underregulated aspect of the American criminal legal system. The few legal scholars who have engaged with bounty hunting in the past have mostly argued that bounty hunters should either be designated as state actors for constitutional purposes or made subject to more stringent regulation by the states. This Note responds to both arguments and concludes that (1) any attempt to designate bounty hunters as constitutional state actors would face serious obstacles and, even if successful, produce only limited benefits and (2) Congress and the states, some of which do not regulate bounty hunting at all, should adopt common-sense regulations that, for example, impose upon bounty hunters educational, training, and insurance requirements. This Note ultimately concludes, however, that the practice of bounty hunting should be abolished in the United States. Abolition is not a radical idea; the states of Illinois, Oregon, Kentucky, and Wisconsin have already eliminated bounty hunters, and their experiences have shown abolition to be both a viable and durablenot to mention justpolicy. 

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Hammill, Note