In Missouri, laws governing bounty hunters can be found in Chapter 374, Title 24 of the Missouri Statutes. Missouri bounty hunters are known as surety recovery agents.
Pursuant to § 374.700 R.S.Mo., surety recovery agents are persons who track down, capture, and surrender to the custody of a court a fugitive who has violated a bail bond agreement[i].
§ 374.783 R.S.Mo. provides that no person should hold himself/herself out as being a surety recovery agent in Missouri, unless such person is licensed. However, licensed bail bond agents and general bail bond agents may perform fugitive recovery without being licensed as surety recovery agents[ii].
Pursuant to § 374.783 R.S.Mo., the director of the department of insurance has authority to license all surety recovery agents in the state. Further, the director has control and supervision over the licensing of such agents and the enforcement of the statutory provisions.
The director has the power to:
- Set and determine the amount of the fees authorized and required. The fees shall be set at a level sufficient to produce revenue. However, such fees shall not exceed one hundred fifty dollars for a two-year license; and
- Determine the sufficient qualifications of applicants for a license.
The director licenses all surety recovery agents who meet the requirements, for a period of two years.
Applications for examination and licensure as a surety recovery agent should be submitted on forms prescribed by the department and should contain such information as the department requires, along with a copy of the front and back of a photographic identification card[iii].
To surrender a subject to a court, a surety recovery agent having probable grounds to believe the subject is free on his/her bond may[iv]:
- Detain the subject in a lawful manner, for a reasonable time, provided that in the event travel from another state is involved, the detention period may include reasonable travel time not to exceed seventy-two hours;
- Transport a subject in a lawful manner from state to state and county to county to a place of authorized surrender; and
- Enter upon private or public property in a lawful manner to execute apprehension of a subject.
Further, a surety recovery agent who apprehends a subject should surrender custody of the subject to the court of jurisdiction.
§ 374.788 R.S.Mo. provides that when a surety recovery agent is in the process of performing fugitive recovery, a photographic identification card should be prominently displayed on his/her person.
A person is guilty of a class D felony if s/he does not hold a valid surety recovery agent license or a bail bond license and commits any of the following acts[v]:
- Holds himself/herself out to be a licensed surety recovery agent within the state;
- Claims that s/he can render surety recovery agent services; or
- Engages in fugitive recovery in the state.
Pursuant to § 374.789 R.S.Mo., any person who engages in fugitive recovery in the state and wrongfully causes damage to any person or property, including but not limited to unlawful apprehension, unlawful detainment, or assault is liable for such damages and may be liable for punitive damages.
[i] § 374.700 R.S.Mo.
[ii] § 374.783 R.S.Mo.
[iii] § 374.784 R.S.Mo.
[iv] § 374.788 R.S.Mo.
[v] § 374.789 R.S.Mo.