In Tennessee, laws governing bounty hunting can be found in Chapter 11, Title 40 of the Tennessee Code. Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-318, a bounty hunter is a person who acts as an agent of a professional bondsman, and who attempts to, or takes into custody a person who has failed to appear in court and whose bond has been forfeited, for a fee. The payment of the fee is contingent upon the taking of a person into custody and returning such person to the custody of the professional bondsman for whom the bounty hunter works. However, bounty hunting does not include the taking into custody of a person by a professional bondsman.
Tenn. Code Ann. §40-11-318 governs the licensing requirements for bounty hunters. Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-318, a person convicted of a felony cannot serve as a bounty hunter in the State of Tennessee. Persons having been convicted of a felony and performing the services of a bounty hunter are committing a criminal offense and it is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-318, before a bounty hunter takes into custody a person who has failed to appear in court, s/he must present the following documents to the office of the appropriate law enforcement officer of the political subdivision where the taking will occur:
- a copy of the applicable warrant;
- a copy of the bond;
- proper credentials from a professional bondsman in Tennessee, or another state verifying that the bounty hunter is an agent of a professional bondsman; and
- a pocket card certifying that the bounty hunter has completed the training required. When the bounty hunter is from a state other than Tennessee, a proof that the bounty hunter successfully completed an equivalent amount of training in the bounty hunter’s home state within the last year must be produced.
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-318, a failure to present the proper credentials to the office of the appropriate law enforcement officer prior to taking any person into custody is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, a professional bondsman, who knowingly employs a convicted felon to act as an agent of the bondsman for purposes of taking into custody a person who failed to appear in court, commits a Class A misdemeanor.
Tenn. Code Ann. §40-11-133 governs the arrest of a defendant by a bail bondsman or his authorized agent. Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-133, in order to take into custody a person who failed to appear in court, a bail bondsman or a surety can arrest the defendant on a certified copy of the undertaking anywhere in the state. A bail bondsman or a surety is also empowered to authorize another person to make the arrest. The authorization must be made by a written authority endorsed on a certified copy of the undertaking.
Tenn. Code Ann. §40-11-133 requires that the arrest by a bounty hunter must be made on a certified copy of the undertaking, with a proper endorsement by the bail bondsman authorizing the agent to make the arrest. A written grant of authority issued pursuant to a forfeiture remains in full force and effect until the defendant is apprehended and returned to the authorities, and a disposition is entered in the defendant’s case.
Tenn. Code Ann. §40-11-133 allows a bounty hunter to arrest a bail jumper anywhere in the state. However, s/he cannot violate any applicable criminal statutes.
A citizen of Tennessee wishing to carry a handgun in Tennessee is subject to the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-1351. Only law enforcement officers are authorized to carry handguns without a permit. Bounty hunters are not law enforcement officers. Therefore, bounty hunters must comply with the mandates of Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-1351 to carry a handgun in Tennessee. A bounty hunter from another state must possess a permit or license in compliance with the requirements of Tenn.Code Ann. §39-17-1351.