'Dog' at Capitol to fight bill restricting bounty hunters
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
Duane "Dog" Chapman and his companion, Beth, are used to staring down fugitives in their popular television reality show. But the colorful Hawai'i bounty hunters had to defend their tactics yesterday afternoon before different adversaries — state lawmakers.
Chapman and his crew, known nationwide from the A&E cable series "Dog The Bounty Hunter," were at the state Capitol to oppose a House bill that would prohibit felons like Dog from chasing bail jumpers. Chapman was on the other side of the law as a young motorcycle gang member, serving time in a Texas prison as an accessory to murder.
But Chapman told lawmakers he has helped capture 7,000 fugitives in more than 25 years as a bounty hunter at no cost to taxpayers. He said he would work with the state on regulations to ensure bounty hunters are trained and are no danger to public safety. But he believes his competitors, jealous over his success, are behind the bill.
"This is a bill out of competitors that are absolutely jealous because their lines don't ring and mine do," Chapman told reporters.
The Chapman crew is not mentioned by name in the bill but it is apparent they are being referred to when it suggests that marauding bounty hunters "might make for commercially successful television entertainment, (but) it has no place in the orderly administration of our bail laws."
Brett Pruett, a legal publisher who asked House lawmakers to consider the bill, said self-appointed bounty hunters who break down doors and enter homes violate civil liberties and put people at risk. "It's an accident waiting to happen," Pruett told lawmakers.
The bill would require bounty hunters to be at least 21, pass a written state examination, have no felony or aggravated misdemeanor arrest record, have no conviction where a dangerous weapon was used, and submit to fingerprinting and background checks.
Lawmakers deferred the bill yesterday for further study.
Chapman said it would be reasonable to bar felons who have been convicted within the past 10 to 15 years, but not someone like him who has left crime in the past. Dog — who is armed with "Mace that can drop an elephant" — also supports badges or some type of identification so fugitives and police can distinguish trained bounty hunters from imitators or thugs.
Beth Smith, a licensed bail agent and Dog's companion, said regulations would help. "But the way that the bill stands right now, it's absolutely biased to the fugitive," she said. "It is criminal driven. And it's being driven by competitive people who would like to see Dog out of business. That isn't going to happen. We've been here for 27 years. We've captured 7,000 fugitives. We have a war on methamphetamine. And we are going to fulfill that date with destiny.
"This is a high tourist town. And the tourists here, and the people here, deserve to have clean streets without ice-heads running amok. And that's what we're here to do. We're going to finish the job we came here for."
Reach Derrick DePledge at firstname.lastname@example.org.