Legal Safety for Bail Bondsmen: Understanding Body Armor Laws
As a bail bondsman, you may face occasional danger in the pursuit of fugitives. Once a defendant fails to attend their court appointment, you become responsible for finding them and recovering funds paid out under the agreed bond: while some bondsmen may employ bounty hunters to apprehend the fugitive, you may decide to track them yourself. Depending on the defendant's history of violence, you might expect varying levels of risk: are they likely to contact former associates for support and weaponry? Will they resort to any acts – no matter how extreme – to stop you taking them back?
Body armor is essential to ensure you're prepared for resistance, but knowing the right vest to wear can be difficult, not only because of the wide range available, but also due to complex legal regulations permitting its purchase and use. What do you need to know before you buy protective vests?
Armor and the Law
In most states, buying bullet proof armor as a convicted defendant is illegal, though several do allow it provided you prove your work demands it, and you get special permission from your local chief of police or county sheriff. If your fugitive acquires a vest on the run, they'll likely do this through illicit means.
Depending on your home state, you may face different regulations than buyers would in another state. In Florida, for example, anyone can buy a bulletproof vest – but if you commit a crime (or try to) while wearing it, you'll face conviction of a third-degree felony, with a potential five-year prison sentence, a $5000 fine, and a further five years' probation. In Michigan, anyone besides violent defendants can buy and wear a bulletproof vest. In Texas, buyers must be aged at least 21 (the minimum age is 18 in most other states), and buyers must have no criminal convictions. Finally, in Connecticut, all armor must be bought in a face-to-face sale (unless the purchaser works in the police or military).
To conclude, then, you'll be safe to buy bulletproof vests, as a bail bondsman, in most states (though, in Connecticut, you'll be unable to buy online). How about other types of body armor?
Stab Vests and Spike Protection
As current regulations stand in the USA, stab vests can be bought legally by anyone (except for in Connecticut, of course). You may be unable to know exactly what type of weaponry your fugitive may use, of course, but preparing for all eventualities is key: try to carry a multi-purpose vest (armor offering resistance against bullets, blades, and spikes), or a choice of vests, covering multiple threats. As most stab vests also offer spike protection, you'll stay safe whether your fugitive attacks with a knife or a needle. You may be able to decide on the right type of armor by watching your fugitive as he or she moves: the way they carry themselves may help shed some light on their weaponry.
Choosing the Right Vest
Depending on the level of risk you anticipate, your fugitive may be heavily-armed, demanding the highest levels of ballistic protection. Wearing a level 3 or 4 vest (as rated by the National Institute of Justice) will protect you from high-velocity firepower. If you believe the fugitive is armed, then you may feel the need to carry a firearm yourself, for protection: you should make sure your vest is tough enough to stop your own ammunition, at least, in case of an accident, or should the fugitive get control of your gun.
When you locate the defendant, you'll have a choice to make on how you approach him or her; do you sneak up on them, or do you storm in? Whichever you decide, your armor plays a vital role. Overt armor is designed to fit over your clothing, with a thick, often bulky build; covert armor is thinner and more lightweight, to find underneath other layers. You should wear covert armor if you want to maintain a low profile as you approach them, but if you know (or believe) the defendant is armed with a high-velocity rifle, this will be unsuitable – instead, you'd need to wear a level 3 or 4 vest, which are only available as overt styles.
Whichever armor you opt for, make sure you familiarize yourself with the relative legalities of wearing vests in any other states you might enter during your pursuit.
About the Author
Chris Taylor is an expert writer for SafeGuard Armor, who provide a range of body armor, stab proof vests and other levels of protective clothing.
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