Maine laws are silent with regards to the licensing of bail bond recovery agents, otherwise known as bounty hunters. This is probably because commercial bail bond practices are not allowed within the state. But because the law is silent as regards bounty hunters, it does not necessarily mean that bounty hunters per se are not allowed to work in the state of Maine.
Essentially, what this means is that while there are no licensed bounty hunters from Maine who can go out of the state to bring back or recover skips, bail bond agents or bounty hunters who are licensed in another state may enter Maine to do their job. That is, bounty hunters may still work to bring back a fugitive or criminal defendant who skipped bail from another state, and is currently hiding in the state of Maine. As a matter of general interest, Maine is considered one of the safest and most peaceful states in the U.S., with one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country.
Does that mean that you don’t need to be a licensed bail recovery agent to work as one within Maine? If they do not license bounty hunters, they may not inquire into your license as a bounty hunter if you should work at recovering a fugitive from within their jurisdiction.
This may be true, but remember that the ultimate goal is to bring the fugitive back to the state from where he skipped bail. If the state allowed bail bond recovery agents to retrieve the defendant, the chances are that there are regulations applicable to bounty hunters in that state, to which they would need to adhere to.
So, imagine this scenario: a defendant in a criminal case in another state jumps bail. He makes his way to the state of Maine. The defendant’s bail bondsman from that other state sends a bail recovery agent to recover the fugitive from Maine, and to bring that person back to the court. But Maine has no laws regulating bounty hunters or fugitive recovery agents. Can he legally enter Maine on the strength of his license from another state and be legally able to perform his job as a bounty hunter in Maine?
The difficulty is that the silence of Maine law regarding bail recovery agents can be interpreted in two ways: one, that because it is not expressly illegal, bounty hunting may be implied to be allowed within the state of Maine. Or, because the law is silent, it means that the license and authority of bail recovery agents are not recognized as valid by Maine law enforcement authorities. We cannot know which way to interpret this silence in the law until and unless the matter is brought before a court and some precedence is created.
All that said, it can also be argued that the actions taken by a bail recovery agent are not necessarily illegal in Maine. Even in Maine, there are provisions made for citizen arrests, which is essentially what a bail recovery agent is – a private citizen tasked with apprehending a fugitive.
The next question that may be asked is whether this falls under a valid warrantless arrest. The simple answer is yes. Even if an active crime is not being committed right in front of you, a private citizen who is aware that an individual is a fugitive may also perform a citizen’s arrest. Essentially, simply by being out and free when he should have been in jail, or when a warrant is out for his arrest, all of which the bounty hunter knows of, empowers him to make a citizen’s arrest.
While there may be a constitutional right against excessive bail, there is no constitutional right to bail itself. In fact, it may be argued that law enforcement authorities arrest individuals for a reason, and that is because that person has committed a crime. Bail is granted not because a person is now off the hook for the crime, but because of the interest in presuming a person innocent until proven guilty. A court also wishes the defendant to prepare his defense well before the trial, as well as to decrease the growing population of pretrial inmates. Bail is most often than not granted by courts on the condition that the defendant appear in court on his scheduled trial dates.
This state of affairs no longer holds true when the crime that a defendant is being charged with is considered non-bailable. Non-bailable offenses are usually those that are classified as capital offenses, or punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Obviously, what determines the refusal of bail here to a defendant is the severity of the crime with which a person is being charged. The defendant’s interest in being presumed innocent until proven guilty is now largely superseded by the greater interest of public safety and the maintenance of law and order.
Even if a person is not being charged with a non-bailable offense, if he has been previously charged with a non-bailable offense, or have two or more previous non-bailable offenses, bail may also be refused or denied for such a person.
It may be interesting to note that even if the charges against a defendant are considered bailable, a judge may still decide to refuse bail to that defendant on several grounds, such as that the defendant is a flight risk, or that he poses a threat to the public if released from jail.
In the state of Maine, there is what is known as a bail commissioner, who is appointed by the chief judge of the district courts. Bail commissioners serve no longer than five years, and there may be more than one bail commissioner at a time.
The main responsibility of a bail commissioner is to set the amount of preconviction bail or bond for criminal defendants. He can do this even outside of a courtroom, such as in a police station, before arraignment. He may set the amount of bail, or he may make a recommendation to the judge for the amount of the preconviction bail. Bail commissioners are granted this authority to assist court judges in one of their functions, which is in determining the amount of bail. Interestingly, a bail commissioner also has the authority to order the release of a defendant from jail on his own personal recognizance. Otherwise, the bail Commissioner may then make the appropriate recommendations to the sitting judge.
There are some limitations to the power of bail commissioners, which include the inability to set preconviction bail for those who are charged with murder or other capital offense, or if bail has already been essentially set by the court.
Interested now in becoming a bail commissioner? Judges do not have unlimited discretion in who they can appoint as bail commissioners, and aspiring candidates are required to undergo a bail training program to be considered as qualified.
What is a bail hearing, and what can you reasonably expect to take place during this time? As its name implies, a bail hearing is a hearing in court, before a judge, for bail. In other words, during a bail hearing, a judge will determine whether or not a defendant is entitled to bail, and if so, what the bail amount is, and what other conditions may be imposed on top of the amount of bail that needed to be paid.
During a bail hearing, the judge presides over a courtroom where the defendant appears with his attorney. The prosecutor may also be present. The defendant, through his attorney, may argue on behalf of the defendant, either:
- to ask that bail be granted if the judge has decided to refuse bail;
- to request that the defendant be released on his own recognizance if bail was granted at a certain amount;
- to ask for a lower amount of bail if the bail amount has been set at what seems to be an unreasonably high amount; and
- to reduce or remove one or more of the conditions that the judge may have added to the bail
And because this is an adversarial proceeding, the prosecutor can present opposing motions if he or she considers the defendant’s requests to be unreasonable. So:
- to deny bail where bail was granted, if it is believed that the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the public;
- to raise the amount of bail;
- to add additional conditions to the defendant’s bail
A jury is not present or needed at this time.