Bounty hunters will soon have uniform restrictions.
A new state law quietly passed this legislative session bans bail enforcement agents (which includes bounty hunters and bail bondsmen) from wearing or driving anything that may make them look like a police officer.
This law, which goes into effect July 1, is largely based on the actions of one man: Stew Peters, a successful bounty hunter in Minnesota, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.
Peters, owner of Stew's Bail Bonds and U.S. Fugitive Recovery & Extradition, says he and his team play an important roll in capturing bail-jumpers and bringing them to justice. He made headlines last fall for capturing Minnesota fugitive Gregory Ahlers in California,
But law enforcement agencies have expressed their concern because Peters was being mistaken for an actual police officer. (In Minnesota, bounty hunters are not required to be licensed police officers in order to capture fugitives and receive the bounty money.)
Photos on the U.S. Fugitive Recovery & Extradition Facebook page show Peters and his team driving cars with decals making it look like a squad car, wearing bulletproof vests with "arrest team" and "K-9" on them, and carrying a gun or wearing a gun belt.
That's what prompted Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, to push for legislation, the Post Bulletin notes.
The new law prohibits bail enforcement agents from wearing the same colors as law enforcement officials – blue, brown, green or maroon. It also says they can't drive vehicles that are the same color as squad cars, and it can't have "a police shield, star or any similar emblem that is typically associated with a marked law enforcement vehicle."
Peters: It's about safety
Peters maintains they dress that way for their safety.
"We don't represent ourselves as cops. We don't say we're cops. We're proudly bounty hunters," Peters told The Associated Press. "This isn't a hobby. This isn't something I do for fun."
Peters told the Rochester Post Bulletin he founded his company in 2014 and now has eight full-time employees who have law enforcement or military experience. The team has helped with 104 arrests, 81 of which involved felonies.
The Minnesota Professional Bail Bonds Association wasn't involved in creating the law, but the president of the group supports the law's intent, the AP notes.
In some states, bounty hunting is prohibited altogether, while others require a bounty hunter to be a licensed peace officer or be a licensed bail or bond agent.