BOISE — One year after a man was shot to death by bounty hunters in eastern Idaho, a state bill was introduced in this legislative session that would have created regulations for bail enforcement agents.
But after passing the House, 57-13, and passing the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, the bill failed to make it to the Senate floor vote, in part due to the efforts of the reality TV star known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
The proposed legislation was brought forward after Patricia Holt, of Rigby, wrote to legislators asking for new regulations around bail enforcement agent behavior.
Holt’s son, Philip Clay, was shot to death in Ammon last year when bounty hunters were pursuing him after a warrant was issued for his arrest in Ada County. Clay, 58, of Nampa, had failed to appear for a court hearing.
None of the bail enforcement agents was charged in the incident.
Among other things, House Bill 508 would have had several stipulations, including:
Civil and criminal penalties also could be enforced if agents violated the proposed requirements.
Rep. Richard Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, said one of the reasons the bill did not make it to a vote in the Senate was because of lobbyists’ efforts and calls by Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog The Bounty Hunter.” Wills chairs the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee and pitched the bill.
Chapman is a bail enforcement agent who has appeared regularly on TV reality shows about bounty hunters.
Holt said she is disappointed in the Legislature’s decision and believes it is dangerous to have no regulations in place for bounty hunters.
In a letter Holt wrote to Wills, she stated her son was “hunted down, cornered and shot by one of six bounty hunters.” The letter explained the bounty hunters were hours away from losing their bail bond for Clay before the 180-day limit expired.
“Numerous times they went to residences looking for Mr. Clay and outright lied indicating they were part of or with law enforcement,” Holt wrote in the letter.
The proposed legislation made it through the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee and the House floor in a 57-13 vote, but after passing a Senate committee, it failed to make it to a vote on the Senate floor.
Wills said “Dog the Bounty Hunter” opposed the legislation because, in effect, it would have banned convicted felons from being bail enforcement agents in Idaho.
Under the bill, bounty hunters would need an enhanced concealed carry permit, and since convicted felons are not permitted to possess a firearm, they would not be eligible for a permit in Idaho.
Chapman, himself, was previously convicted of first-degree murder in Texas and served some time in prison.
Chapman argued that in 2008, the federal government passed a law saying employers cannot discriminate against an individual because they are a felon. He thought banning felons from working as bail enforcement agents could lead to civil issues.
Wills said he received a call from Chapman in which Chapman said he wanted to be legally allowed to work as a bail enforcement agent in Idaho despite being a felon. The legislator said he believed felons who have been convicted of violent crimes should not be able to carry a firearm under any circumstances.
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, is on the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee and said the Senate had concerns regarding terminology in the bill and appropriate definitions when referring to bail enforcement agents. Burgoyne said some concerns included whether a convicted felon should be able to work as a bail enforcement agent.
Some of the current bail enforcement agents in Idaho would not be able to work as bail enforcement agents under that criteria.
Rather than mandating bail enforcement agents have an enhanced concealed carry permit, Burgoyne suggested allowing Idaho State Police to perform background checks on the agents.
“We need to not have bail enforcement agents under the age of 21, and we need to have a system of approval through Idaho State Police through background checks,” he said. “It would give State Police the ability to waive criminal convictions that are old and would not be going to be contrary to the role (of a bail enforcement agent).”
With amendments to the initially proposed bill, Burgoyne said he would support a new bill with different language. He said part of the reason the amended bill didn’t make it to a Senate vote was because of how late it was in the legislative session. On March 24, the bail enforcement agent bill was reported out without amendments and referred to the Judiciary and Rules Committee, but legislative session adjourned March 25.
“But I am completely in favor of bringing the bill back,” Burgoyne said about the next legislative session.
Chapman told the Idaho Press-Tribune he did not oppose legislation regarding regulations for bounty hunters, but he believes it should focus on requiring training rather than mandating a weapons permit.
He noted that it has been 39 years since he was convicted of a felony, and since then he has made nearly 8,000 arrests as a bounty hunter. He has lobbied in other states for regulations on education and training for bounty hunters. Chapman said he has no interest in carrying a firearm and instead uses a Taser if necessary.
“If you need a gun to take a guy out, you call the police,” Chapman said about violent wanted suspects.
He also believes that bail enforcement agents need badges as a form of identification and should be members of the Professional Bail Agents of the U.S. The legislation would have prohibited bounty hunters from wearing a badge.
Wills said he plans to try proposing legislation on the topic again next year.
“We have no regulations in the state of Idaho on what (bail enforcement agents) can legally do and can’t legally do,” Wills said.
After multiple amendment suggestions and significant debate in Senate committee, the bill never made it past the third reading for a vote by the full Senate.
Clay was shot March 15, 2015, outside an apartment complex in Ammon after four bail bondsmen came from Boise to arrest him on an Ada County warrant for a drug charge. According to the Idaho Falls Post Register, bail bondsman Christopher Schulthies fired his gun five times, shooting Clay at least four times.
Law enforcement criticized the bondsmen’s efforts to locate Clay, alleging they took illegal actions such as illegal search and seizure and impersonating an officer. Guy Bracali-Gambino led the group of bounty hunters, but none of them were charged, according to the Post Register.
Holt said the bondsmen never did receive the bond payments for locating Clay.
Holt said she remembers her son as only a kind, loving person who made a mistake by not appearing in court. But it was a mistake he didn’t deserve to die for, she said.
“Idaho desperately needs to never have this happen again,” Holt said about her son’s death. “Had that group been qualified, certified law enforcement, this would not have happened.”
This article was originally published in the Idaho Press-Tribune. It is used here with permission.
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com Hunter Schwarz, CNN
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