Idaho Bondsman Authority Vague

Following a fatal shooting in Eastern Idaho of a man wanted for contempt of court in Ada County last Saturday by a bondsman/bounty hunter, the GUARDIAN began a search for authority, law, policy, and common practices of bail bondsmen (and women).

We have sought information from sheriffs, deputy Attorney General, prosecutors, a District Court administrator, the Idaho Supreme Court, and the Idaho Department of Insurance. We have had varying degrees of response, but frankly no one has been knowledgable of just how much power a bondsman wields–or does NOT wield.

The most common “authority” claimed by bondsmen is a U.S. Supreme court case from 1873 which dealt with a three state issue when a man free on bail failed to appear because he was in jail in another state.

Bondsmen are licensed in Idaho by the Insurance Department and most of the Idaho law on bondsmen deals with licensing, consumer affairs of collateral, and procedures to refund or forfeit bail to either the agent or the defendant. There is a section about delivering the bailee to a sheriff or court, but at this writing we cannot find authority to arrest, shoot, search, or enter a premise.

Philip Clay was shot and killed by at least one of four men who were attempting to arrest him based on a bench warrant. Warrants are issued by courts and are served by “peace officers”– who are police, sheriff’s deputies and a few other specific officers in Idaho. The incident at Ammon has been described as an “attempt to serve a warrant,” but there were no law enforcement officers on the scene at the time of the shooting.

Clay had apparently posted bail bond through an insurance company (usually 10% premium) which guarantees the court the defendant will appear. The bail was for $100,000 in connection with drug charges. When bondsman need extra muscle, they contract with bounty hunters who often wear badges, SWAT-type gear, and brandish titles like “fugitive recovery agent,” and carry papers appearing to be warrants or other official documents.

Simply put, they are like automobile repo agents. It’s about the money at risk if the person or vehicle is left on the loose.

The unidentified bondsman/bounty hunter said Clay had a gun, but news reports are sketchy at best and repeated calls to the Bonneville Sheriff have not been returned. There are no special provisions regarding weapons carried by bondsmen or bounty hunters.

Idaho Code does require bondsmen to be responsible for the actions of their agents.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Grumpy ole Guy
    Mar 17, 2015, 9:07 pm

    You say “agent”, I say gun for hire.

  2. agent is the new catch all term to identify anyone willing to things “questionable”. Another dubious term is “peace-officer”, as those two words together are maliciously mendacious.
    Our country is definitely one that supports nepotism, and the idea that the ends always justify the means. Thus I would not be surprised if nothing comes of this. Just like whenever an innocent family pet is murdered…

  3. good stuff Guardian.

    “Idaho Code does require bondsmen to be responsible for the actions of their agents.”

    I’m not sure Idaho Code requires police to be responsible for their “actions” either. So what’s the difference?

  4. Frankenstein Government
    Mar 18, 2015, 9:23 am

    Many years ago, I researched this very topic which arises out of common law.

    A man or woman having skipped out on court forfeits any rights they may have possessed at least with respect to this. They or more precisely- their bodies are the collateral. Bail recovery agents are essentially authorized to repo the collateral by any means necessary which includes walking right into a house or vehicle un-announced and without a search warrant.

    It is the ultimate citizens arrest and a fascinating little corner of our legal system which mostly has gone un-noticed or un cared about for 175 years or so.

    That bail agent has far more protection than any cop. Really.

    EDITOR NOTE–You are correct about a citizen’s arrest. ANYONE can make an arrest for any offense. IDAHO CODE 19-601. ARREST DEFINED. An arrest is taking a person into custody in a case and in the manner authorized by law. An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.

  5. Rod in SE Boise
    Mar 18, 2015, 10:38 am

    You say “agent”. He says “gun for hire”. I say “vigilante”.

    We live in a police-state, where we the people are over-policed and the police have too much power, and vigilantes run wild.

    Thank you Guardian, for your hard work on this and other issues.

  6. I wonder whether the agents cover their faces to conceal their identity as local officers sometimes do.

  7. IdahoCrystal
    Mar 18, 2015, 2:31 pm

    Yep. This is one area that definitely needs some additional oversight / regulations. After reading through the applicable Title 41 and 19 statutes – There are some obvious issues which should be (and likely may be soon because of this incident) addressed

    1) I can find ZERO authority for any bonds agent (or anyone “empowered” by a bonds agent) to use force of any kind.

    2) I’m not sure I understand whether or not the enforcement guy has to be licensed like the actual Bond Agency, since 19.2914 says “the surety insurance company or its bail agent or the person posting a property bond or cash deposit may empower any person of suitable age and discretion to arrest the defendant at any place within the state by signing an affidavit extending such authority in a form approved by the supreme court.” –
    Which seems to say the guys doing to “arresting” don’t have to have any training or licensing.

    3) As far as the Bond Agent – there is ZERO training required and licensing is merely a matter of paying the fees and memorizing enough ID Titles/Statutes and general legal definitions to pass a contracted out-of-state company’s online test.

    4) There should be a full glut of consequences for this type of “bond enforcement” which would REQUIRE charges in cases like this one.

    5) Since the Bond Agent is ultimately responsible for the actions of it’s “representatives”, doesn’t that leave a lot of room for wrongful death litigation to include the licensing agency as well (In this case, ID Dept of Insurance)?

    6) I don’t understand why LE hasn’t charged the shooter, since the man who was killed, had not yet been tried (only arrested/charged) and should still have his full rights as an innocent-until-proven-guilty victim, in this case.

  8. Grumpy ole Guy
    Mar 18, 2015, 10:01 pm

    So, who among us is going to proceed in this matter, by contacting the AG’s office to seek a re-write of this section of the Code? Any willing legal minds available? Do we need to chip in to hire someone to set this ball in motion? Let’s talk among ourselves.

  9. Grumpy.. I don’t think the AG will respond to commoners. On another matter, they told me that they only offer opinions for Legislators and other officials.

    EDITOR NOTE–49, you are correct. It’s the law. Grumpy, if you are serious, get your legislator to ask the question on your behalf. “Do we have any laws regarding authority of bondsmen and bounty hunters with regard to arrest, use of deadly force, and serving court issued warrants?”

  10. IdahoCrystal
    Mar 19, 2015, 1:14 pm

    Email sent to my local Rep as well as Rep Horman from Ammon, with link to these Guardian Articles and my request for review /change of training and oversight requirements.
    Easy enough. Action up guys.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: