There will be no changes to the carte blanche given to bounty hunters in Montana after a proposal to bring them under Department of Labor and Industry oversight was tabled Tuesday.
Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, the bill's own sponsor, said there were still kinks to work out in how to separate regulation of bounty hunters from their bail bondsman associates, who are already licensed, including under the state insurance agency. Sands' bill would have brought bounty hunters under the same regulatory DLI board as private investigators; as of now, they answer to no one.
Sands asked the committee to table the bill.
"There's still some confusion because there are two different agencies regulating bail bonds," Sands told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Although Sands said the bill's intent could still be accomplished, she would simply need more time to hammer out the details. She vowed to bring the measure again in two years.
"It will be back again next session," Sands vowed.
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A number of bail bondsmen testified against the proposal last week, many saying their bounty hunting is done in-house and throwing blame at out-of-state bounty hunters.
Missoula District Judge Robert "Dusty" Deschamps weighed in on the debate last year during the case of a Bitterroot-based bounty hunter who had stormed a fugitive's house and held his family, including a 4-year-old girl, at gunpoint over $115.
"Some scholars agree that, when bounty hunters are not regulated by the state or subject to civil liability, 'tyranny on the streets reigns free,'" Deschamps wrote in a court filing.
Missoula's Chief Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks and Sheriff's Captain of Detectives David Conway asked for the panel's support of the measure last week, citing rogue teams with snipers and ambitious bounty hunters shooting out people's tires during a pursuit.
"For law enforcement, we have the power of arrest," Conway said. "We're held accountable by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. … They're not governed by the same search-and-seizure laws we are."