Duane “Dog” Chapman began his hunt for Brian Laundrie late last month, making his presence in Florida known by showing up at his parents’ house. He still has not found Laundrie, whose parents reported him missing on Sept. 17, and even if he does, the reality TV star can’t legally arrest Laundrie. The 23-year-old Laundrie is a person of interest in the death of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, whose remains were found on Sept. 19 in Wyoming.
The Dog the Bounty Hunter star is not licensed as a bounty hunter or private investigator in Florida, reports The Daily Mail. Professional Florida bounty hunters told the outlet that Chapman’s search is no different from any other private citizen’s search for Laundrie. Some told The Daily Mail they found Chapman’s search efforts amusing.
Mike Harrison, the Florida Bail Agents Association vice president, said Chapman could even be charged with kidnapping if he tried to hold Laundrie against his will. “That would be kidnapping or false imprisonment,” Harrison explained. The Tallahassee bail bondsman noted that bounty hunters in Florida know Chapman doesn’t have a license, likely due to his murder conviction.
Back in 1976, Chapman was arrested when he participated in a drug deal gone wrong in Texas. His accomplice shot and killed Jerry Oliver, 69. Chapman was in the getaway car at the shooting, but he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to five years in prison. In January 2020, the New York Times reported Chapman was still trying to get a pardon from Texas, and the conviction bars him from visiting the U.K. Chapman’s publicist, Jennifer Willingham, told the Daily Mail Friday there was “nothing tenuous” in Chapman’s legal status, but did explain further. Chapman himself couldn’t be reached to comment because he is in Florida.
According to the Daily Mail, Chapman’s only legal license is to sell insurance in Hawaii. This is why Chapman’s son Duane Lee Chapman II, a licensed bail bondsman in Jacksonville, Florida, was with Chapman in Dog the Bounty Hunter. Chapman also used a taser and bear repellant on the show instead of a gun.
Harrison further explained that Florida no longer uses the term “bounty hunter” legally to describe people who hunt humans in-laws on bail bondsmen. “Everybody in the business knows Dog is doing this for publicity, maybe to land another TV show,” Harrison told the Daily Mail. “This is about getting more likes on social media, more exposure. But if he can find this kid (Laundrie), I guess more power to him.”
Other critics believe Chapman is only joining the Laundrie search for publicity. His step-daughter, Cecily Chapman, told Silver Screen Beat Chapman should “back off” and let the FBI handle the search. It was reported that Chapman pitched A&E a show about his search for Laundrie, but the network turned him down. Chapman has insisted he is not doing this for personal gain.