Laws governing citizen arrests may change

Photo courtesy: Leading Britain’s Conversation

In the halls of Florida’s Capitol, a new bill is stirring up conversations and raising eyebrows. House Bill 27, officially titled “An act relating to citizen’s arrest,” is not just another piece of legislation; it’s a potential game-changer in how ordinary individuals may respond to crimes.

HB 27 hopes to clarify that regular people who aren’t police officers can’t just arrest someone for breaking the law. HB 27 wants to eliminate the old unwritten rules that allow citizens to arrest each other.

The bill aims to create a new rule saying private individuals can’t make arrests. There are only a couple of exceptions, such as when a police officer is acting outside their usual area or if someone is detaining a person who broke into their home, car or boat.

The proposed changes can impact how people handle situations where they may intervene.

Jack Campbell, a state attorney in Leon County, said, “I don’t see very many citizen arrests; it’s extremely rare. More likely, if I were to witness someone raising concerns about a citizen’s arrest, it would involve an aggravated assault or the use of violence. In such cases, individuals might resort to pulling a gun or employing violence against someone.”

Despite multiple attempts to contact the bill’s sponsor, House Representative Christopher Benjamin, D- Miami Gardens, no responses have been received.

In contemplating the implications of HB 27, one might wonder about its impact on the realms of bail bonds and bounty hunters. How will this proposed legislation influence their roles and operations?

A bounty hunter, also known as a bail enforcement or fugitive recovery agent, is hired by bail bondsmen to capture fugitives, earning a commission for their services. Unlike law enforcement, bounty hunters operate outside legal constraints, resulting in legal liabilities distinct from state agents. Individuals approached by bounty hunters are not obligated to answer questions or be detained. Compensated on a commission basis, bounty hunters cover their own insurance costs and receive payment only upon successfully apprehending a fugitive.

Bounty hunting originates from common law principles and finds legal backing in the 1872 Supreme Court decision, Taylor v. Taintor. Today, bounty hunting is mainly practiced in the United States, with different state laws and regulations.

A Quora discussion shed light on the unique realm of bounty hunting, emphasizing that bounty hunters, often without carrying guns, navigate the thin line of the justice ecosystem. Referencing the historic Supreme Court opinion from 1872, the narrative unveils the unique powers bestowed upon bail bondsmen and bounty hunters because of Taylor v. Taintor.

Bounty hunters are enabled to pursue across state lines, make arrests, and, if necessary, invade private property. It is a power granted without legal processes, similar to re-arresting an escaped prisoner. However, a cautionary note stresses that bounty hunters may face severe consequences if they exceed legal boundaries by breaking into homes without proper warrants or causing harm.

If passed, the bill goes into effect July 1, 2024.