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Idaho’s bounty hunters are unregulated, leading to questions

December 22, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In a state where no regulations exist for bounty hunters, Gooding-based 208 Bail Recovery Services is illustrating why some Idahoans still want that to change.

Its owner pleaded guilty to carrying a weapon onto school property, court documents show, and the bounty hunter has begun the questionable practice of livestreaming its searches for and captures of fugitives. 208 Bail Recovery Services also asked the public for tips in a high-profile murder case, something that raised the ire of the Canyon County sheriff, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Bounty hunters, also called bail enforcement agents, are not licensed in Idaho. They’re hired to track down individuals who have posted bond from jail and then failed to appear in court, or have reoffended. They generally work on a commission.

Some Idaho legislators have tried for three straight years to implement regulations for bounty hunters, and the 2018 proposal included age requirements, rules about what clothing could be worn and notifying law enforcement before making an arrest. A lobbyist for the Idaho Sheriffs Association said the organization would push for regulations again in the 2019 session.

In the meantime, bail agents are essentially left to their own devices — something that has caused consternation across the state in recent cases. However, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office told the Statesman that it has not received any complaints about 208 Bail Recovery Services. There is no pending litigation involving the company, despite some aggressive tactics.

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Weapon on school property

Bounty hunter Logan Delaney, the owner of 208 Bail Recovery Services, is not a licensed bail bondsman, does not have law enforcement training and is not a police officer — the only profession exempt from Idaho’s law against carrying weapons onto school grounds.

But Delaney crossed that line on March 12, when he walked into the Richfield School District wearing his bail recovery agent badge and duty belt, according to a Lincoln County criminal complaint. On his belt was pepper spray, a baton, a pistol and extra magazines of ammunition, according to the court document.

Richfield’s school administrator escorted Delaney out because he had received “multiple warnings” about bringing a gun into the school, the court affidavit states, and Delaney was charged with a misdemeanor for carrying the weapon onto school property.

Court documents show that Delaney pleaded guilty in Lincoln County in May and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation — though when the Idaho Statesman asked Delaney about the conviction, which is public record, he denied it.

The Lincoln County Prosecutor’s Office told the Statesman that elected prosecutor E. Scott Paul “doesn’t talk to the press” and hung up the phone.

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Livestreaming

Delaney’s 208 Bail Recovery, a registered LLC, recently has been livestreaming searches on Facebook, including videos of agents seizing drugs from a suspect and entering a person’s home.

Delaney, of Gooding, maintains that he isn’t trying to be a police officer. He said he started posting the live videos of arrests to help people understand what he does. The videos can be seen on the 208 Bail Recovery Services Facebook page or YouTube channel, though viewers might find the content and language offensive.

208 Bail Recovery also has posted videos showing men wearing badges and bulletproof vests that read “bail recovery agent,” as well as handcuffs, radios and weapons on their belts — gear that resembles state and local police officers’ ensembles.

This can present a problem if passers-by are under the impression that they must cooperate with the men. They might have a warrant to arrest a fugitive who skipped bond, but civilians are not required to work with them or answer their questions.

Delaney said he does not believe that his mode of dress is misleading because he said he always introduces himself as a bail recovery agent.

“If you look like a cop or you act like a cop, you’re going to get arrested,” he said. “We BS with cops and have an understanding.”

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Is this legal?

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to offer comment on the legality of livestreaming an arrest or search, but there are some obvious questions about privacy and seizing evidence.

The videos on 208 Recovery Services’ Facebook page included one posted Dec. 8 that showed the bounty hunters, wearing bulletproof vests, grabbing a man from a truck and pulling him to the ground.

Delaney was then seen pulling what looks like a baggie of drugs from the man’s pocket, yelling profanity and saying, “You’re doin’ (expletive) dope on my bond.” He and another agent then proceeded to search the man’s truck.

Delaney told the Statesman that he believes he is allowed to search a person’s property because the fugitive has skipped bond and he has the authority to arrest him.

“In some of these videos, it’s not that I’m trying to be an ass,” Delaney said. “It’s not that. I’m trying to help. I do everything as right as I can do.”

Delaney said that in the Dec. 8 case, he gave law enforcement a copy of the video and turned the drugs over to authorities.

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‘Gonna get hurt’

Another of 208 Bail Recovery Services’ live videos identifies a woman who is the victim of domestic violence, and one shows the bounty hunters searching private property and looking in vehicles. Delaney is heard joking about how he might “accidentally Tase” the fugitive at the suggestion of Facebook commenters.

The bounty hunters don’t get an answer at the front door of a residence in one video, so they hop a fence into a backyard and enter the home through the back door.

“Bail enforcement, you need to come out with your hands up now or you’re gonna get hurt,” one man shouts into the apparently empty house.

Bondsman Michael Way, of Emmett, works with Delaney and said he has the right to enter people’s homes or vehicles because it is part of the bond agreement. Sometimes if they find drugs on a suspect, they’ll turn them in, he said, and other times they’ll just destroy the drugs.

“It’s not destruction of evidence because we’re not out there investigating them,” Way said. “We’re just there to bring them back (to jail).”

Law enforcement might not agree.

“If a bail bond recovery agent confiscates drugs from a fugitive and doesn’t turn them over to law enforcement, then he or she is then in violation of the law by possessing a controlled substance,” Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue told the Statesman.

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Soliciting tips

Law enforcement last week reiterated a call for information and tips regarding the unsolved killing of Christopher Reese in a Jacksons store in Notus in 2014.

Later that week, 208 Bail Recovery Services posted a video encouraging people to contact the bounty hunters if they have tips and don’t want to speak with police.

The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the Reese investigation, expressed concern over the bounty hunters’ move.

“Bail bond recovery agents do not have investigative authority or arrest powers outside of revoked bonds in the state of Idaho,” Donahue said. “We encourage anyone with information to report it directly to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office or Crime Stoppers.”

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Possible regulation

Idaho lawmakers were unsuccessful trying to put regulations in place for bounty hunters in 2016, ’17 and ’18. Mike Kane, lobbyist for the Idaho Sheriffs Association, said the organization plans to draft legislation similar to what failed last year and hopes that it will get a fair shake in 2019.

Kane told the Statesman that the problems are obvious: no regulation and no training required.

“Quite literally, teenagers could kick in your door and take your child at gunpoint,” Kane said.

Delaney said he believes there should be some licensing and training required. Way told the Statesman that he believes bounty hunters save taxpayer dollars and that he takes the responsibility of detaining fugitives seriously.

Of the recent incidents involving bounty hunters that have caused concern, two stand out. Two Caldwell bail agents, Kevin Ratigan and David Manery, were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of impersonating a police officer; they allegedly held a man at gunpoint trying to apprehend him, but the man had no outstanding warrant. And in 2015, a group of bounty hunters shot and killed 58-year-old Philip Clay, an Ada County fugitive, in Bonneville County. No one was charged in connection to Clay’s death.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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