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Bail jumpers and bounty hunters

A bail bondsman’s encounter with a man at a funeral must have looked a little like an episode of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

Clifton L. Collins came up from North Carolina to Mecklenburg County because he heard a man he was looking for would be attending a funeral. The man he sought had skipped out on an identity theft charge in a North Carolina court.

Collins was licensed in North Carolina, but not in Virginia. The local sheriff could not help because no extradition order had been issued for the fugitive. Collins asked what he should do “if things got out of hand,” and the deputy said to call 911.

Collins drove his truck into the church parking lot and parked perpendicular to a man’s vehicle, blocking it in, according to the Virginia Court of Appeals opinion describing Collins’ encounter with the man. Collins pulled a Glock, pointed it at the man, telling him, “m-f-, you know what it is,” and “this ain’t about money.”

Collins grabbed the man by the shoulder and began pulling him toward the truck. Collins’ assistant got out of the truck, armed with a gun and a can of mace.

But the man Collins grabbed wasn’t the bail jumper. It was the bail jumper’s cousin. When Collins figured it out, he let the man go, got in his truck and left.

That’s when the dispatcher got a 911 call – from the man who had been released.

Collins was apprehended and convicted of attempted abduction and use of a firearm.

In the Court of Appeals, Collins argued he had a common law right to seize a bailee in another state, and had a “legal justification or excuse” for trying to take the wrong man.

No, said the appellate panel. In a published opinion by Judge Randolph A. Beales, the court said legislation from Virginia’s General Assembly altered the common law on bail bondsmen.

In order to grab a guy in Virginia, a bail enforcement agent must be licensed in Virginia or proceed under an extradition order.

The court upheld Collins’ convictions.
By Deborah Elkins

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