‘Dog’ Chapman testifies against bounty hunter bill
Duane "Dog" Chapman, star of the TV reality series "Dog the Bounty Hunter," testified against a bill that would tighten state regulations on bounty hunters in Hawaii -- including a ban on felons from the profession.
Chapman said Thursday that Hawaii does need to follow the example of other states, including Colorado, that require training and identification of their bounty hunters.
"You know you just can't wake up one day and say, 'I want to be a bounty hunter,'" said Chapman, whose show boasts 6 million viewers and the top-rated spot on its cable channel, A&E.
Of the 7,000 e-mails the show receives each week, about half profess ambitions to join the trade, he said.
But there are many things a bounty hunter needs to know to do the job right, including the requirement to first catch sight of a suspect before entering a home to seize him, he said.
Still, Chapman said the bill before lawmakers has too many restrictions and needs to be killed and then rewritten from scratch to work.
As Chapman spoke, several people in the back of the room waved signs urging lawmakers to vote "No." About 20 pieces of written testimony in opposition to the bill also arrived at the Capitol from around the country.
According to the bill, current state law allows "career criminals" to legally break down doors searching for their quarry. That abuse of power is common in the United States, "and, while it might make for commercially successful television entertainment, it has no place in the orderly administration of our bail laws," it said.
Chapman was convicted of murder in 1977 but was released two years later. His longtime companion and business partner, Beth Smith, said Chapman received a clemency pardon for the crime.
Stopping anyone convicted of a felony from becoming a bounty hunter is unfair after that person has served time and stayed out of trouble, he said.
"I believe (after) 10 or 15 years -- when you know you've not had any trouble, you've not had any felonies after that, that you're kind of either rehabilitated or healed -- that you can be a normal person," he said.
The law, however, should bar a bail bond agent from carrying a gun, he said.
"We use mace that can drop an elephant. ... When you need someone, a bullet, call the cops," he said.
Charles Fisher, another local bail agent, testified Thursday that while he supports the bill, it did need revisions, including dropping the limit on felons.
Chapman said he helped craft Colorado's law and offered to help lawmakers put together Hawaii's law.
The measure was deferred by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, to give members more time to sift through and revise the bill.