Bounty hunters: OR a haven for petty criminals

Bounty hunters: OR a haven for petty criminals

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by Ed Teachout

kgw.com

Posted on November 13, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 13 at 4:02 PM

Oregon has become a haven for small-time criminals to hide, according to bounty hunters across the border in Washington.

“Big time,” said fugitive recovery agent Dave Chadwick. “There’s nobody to come after them because Oregon is a no-bail state.”

Oregon is one of only four states that prohibits private commercial bounty hunters--called fugitive recovery agents--from capturing criminals wanted for misdemeanor crimes and taking them back to the state with a warrant for their arrest.

Jeremy Hubbard is the president of Washington’s Bail Bondsmen Association. He told Unit 8, “They’re all running to Oregon to hide. You have a warrant problem that’s going rampant right now. “

Compared to the other 46 states that allow private bond companies to put up bail money, Oregon is doing a lousy job at getting suspects to show up in court.

“Forty percent of the people arrested in Oregon do not go to court,” said Hubbard. “But here in Washington, the rate of failure to appear is less than nine percent.”

Hubbard said that big difference is all about the money. In Washington and other bail states, if a defendant doesn’t show up for court within 60 days the private bonding company has to pay the remaining 90 percent of the bond to the state.

It’s that money that entices private bonding companies to go after fugitives with misdemeanor warrants. But if that fugitive flees to Oregon, bounty hunters hired by private bondsmen can do nothing more than ask the fugitive to voluntarily return to the state where they’re wanted.

“In fact, if we were to cuff someone in Oregon that’s wanted for a misdemeanor crime in Washington, the bounty hunter could be arrested for kidnapping,” said bounty hunter Dave Chadwick.

To prove his point, Unit 8 investigators went along with bounty hunters looking to find fugitives hiding out in Oregon to see if they actually would go with the bounty hunters to pay for their crime.

The group found Washington fugitive Brad Dye at a friend’s house in Southeast Portland. Dye is wanted on his third misdemeanor of driving under the influence.

Chadwick told Dye, “I can't put handcuffs on you right now because it's a misdemeanor, and you're in Oregon. If I could, you would already be handcuffed and we'd be going in the car.”

Dye told Chadwick he wanted to make things right, but he had personal things he had to do before turning himself in. He told Chadwick if he returned in three days, he would turn himself in.

But on the third day, not only did Dye fail to turn himself in, a woman living at the house we found him at said Dye didn’t care and kicked Unit 8 off her property.

Fugitive recovery agents say Dye is a good example why Oregon needs to change its law. Currently, individual counties in the state manage bail themselves.

Bondsmen say they could do a better job while saving the state millions of dollars. Law enforcement officials in Oregon agree the state’s system is more expensive and less successful at getting fugitives to appear in court, but most said they do not want private bondsmen.

Clatsop County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Marquis told Unit 8 that when money is the driving force to track down law breakers, the civil rights of the suspects can be compromised.

Marquis said he was around in 1971 when Oregon changed to a no-bail state. He said felons were being hired to track down felons, which led to more laws being broken.

But Washington bondsmen say those days are long gone. Hubble said today bounty hunters have to be licensed and insured, get tested and pass background tests. Though recent attempts to change Oregon’s law have failed, bail bondsmen said they plan to ask legislators to change the law so they can come to Oregon and capture criminals hiding out here.

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