News Release ~ 09/28/1999

Statement of John K. Zwerling Board Member National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Bounty Hunter Accountability Act

Washington, DC (September 28, 1999) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) joins Congressman Asa Hutchinson in support of legislation introduced today to safeguard the fundamental Constitutional rights of citizens against bounty hunter abuses.

Americans are protected from unlawful arrests by police officers, but, incredibly, they are not protected from bounty hunters who are on the loose and out of control. Even though some bounty hunters are ex-convicts or have otherwise been in trouble with the law, they often enjoy broader powers to arrest fugitives than do police officers. They can legally break into a home without a warrant or probable cause. With impunity, they can violently arrest, shackle, imprison and even transport suspects across state lines. These goons with guns are largely untrained and unlicensed, and their actions often lead to tragic results.

Why should private actors, some with criminal records, have unbridled power to arrest other citizens? Why should bounty hunters wield even more power than is permitted the police by the Constitution? Americans have a right to be secure in their homes and deserve protection from all arrests made in violation of their fundamental rights.

The Bounty Hunter Accountability Act goes a long way towards reining in the mayhem and injustice of abusive bounty hunters without imposing substantial burdens on the hundreds of law-abiding bail recovery agents. NACDL is pleased to support the efforts of Representative Hutchinson to protect the lives and liberties of innocent citizens.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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