He was born on February 2, 1953 to Wesley and Barbara Chapman. He is the oldest of four children, with two younger sisters and one brother; however, according to Chapman, everyone is his "brother". He is German on his mother's side and English on his father's side. His mother was an Assembly of God pastor, who instilled Christian morals in her son.
In 1976, Chapman was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to five years in a Texas prison. He had been waiting in a car when his friend accidentally shot and killed alleged pimp and drug dealer Jerry Oliver, 69, in a struggle during a deal to buy cannabis.
Chapman served 18 months at Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. While he was in prison, his first wife LaFonda divorced him and married his best friend. During his incarceration, he did field work and acted as the warden's barber. In a 2007 interview for Fox News, Chapman claimed that while serving his sentence he tackled an inmate about to be shot for attempting to escape, and a congratulatory remark by a Corrections Officer inspired him to become a bounty hunter later. Chapman was paroled in January 1979.
Because of his felony conviction, Chapman is not allowed to own a firearm. He has been barred from entering the UK.
On June 18, 2003, Chapman made international news by capturing Andrew Luster, who had fled the United States in the middle of his trial on charges of drugging and raping a number of women. Luster had been convicted in absentia on 86 counts including multiple rape charges connected to assaults in 1996, 1997 and 2000. Chapman was assisted by his "hunt team", consisting of his son Leland and Tim Chapman. The three bounty hunters captured Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he had been living under an assumed name. On their way to California, while still in Mexico, they were pulled over by Mexican police, and all four of them were jailed. Once the authorities confirmed Luster's identity, he was sent to California to face his 125-year sentence.
Chapman and his team, still in the Mexican jail, were initially denied bail, but after his wife Beth alerted the media and aroused public opinion in the United States, they were granted bail. Once out of jail on bail, they followed their attorney's advice and fled the jurisdiction, thereby becoming international bail-jumpers. On September 14, 2006, days before the expiration of the statute of limitations, Chapman, along with his son Leland Chapman and associate Tim Chapman, were arrested by United States Marshals and jailed in Honolulu on behalf of the Mexican government. Mexican authorities had charged all three with "deprivation of liberty," involving the 2003 arrest of Andrew Luster, because bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico. Since they did not obtain permission to leave the country while out on bail in 2003, the Mexican Government declared the three Chapmans fugitives from justice and tried to get them extradited to Mexico for sentencing. After spending one night in the federal detention center in Honolulu, Chapman told reporters: "The federal marshals treated us with great respect. But let me tell you, you never want to go to a federal prison, because it's terrible."
The next day, September 15, 2006, Chapman appeared in a packed Honolulu courtroom with his ankles shackled. Although the judge agreed that the men were not a significant flight risk, he ordered that each wear an electronic monitoring device around the ankle. The three men were released on bail ($300,000 for Duane Chapman, $100,000 each for Leland Chapman and Tim Chapman). Chapman's lead attorney, Brook Hart, reportedly planned to argue that although the charge Chapman faced is a misdemeanor in Mexico, when translated into English it became a felony (kidnapping) under American law. Mexican authorities dismissed Hart's claim as the desperate efforts of an American lawyer trying to free his client. They insisted that Chapman had, in fact, been charged with a felony. An extradition hearing was set for November 16, 2006.
Chapman has speculated that his arrest was due in part to a possible prisoner exchange agreement between the Mexican and American authorities. According to Chapman, the federal agents 'sold him out', by trading him in for a convicted Mexican drug lord. Duane, Leland, and Tim had their ankle bracelets removed so they could work. On October 11, 2006, reports surfaced of an open letter dated September 26, 2006, sent on Chapman's behalf by 29 Republican Congressmen to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The letter stated the authors' opposition to Chapman's extradition and requested that Rice deny Mexico's request for same. Subsequently, on October 20, 2006, lawyers for Chapman said that the Mexican federal court had granted them an order that halted the criminal case against the bounty hunter until further evidence and witness testimony were gathered. A court hearing was held on December 23, 2006. The original hearing was postponed because a report from a lower court was not yet received. The court heard both sides of the story, and then decided to recess. Then court proceedings started on January 16, 2007 and the court had up to Tuesday, February 6, 2007 but the deadline was extended.
On February 16, 2007, a Mexican Federal court ruled that there was no reason not to try Chapman on the charge of deprivation of liberty in Mexico. In response, on February 23, Hawaii State Representatives Gene Ward, Karen Awana, Rida Cabanilla, Lynn Finnegan, Barbara Marumoto, Colleen Meyer, Kymberly Pine, Joe Bertram, Ken Ito, Marylin Lee, and John Mizuno introduced 'House Concurrent Resolution 50', "Requesting the President of Mexico and the Second District Court of Guadalajara to drop extradition charges against TV Bounty Hunter, Duane 'Dog' Chapman". The resolution was passed by the International Affairs committee on March 7.
During this time, Chapman, along with his new attorney, William C. Bollard, appeared on numerous media shows. Some of these include: Larry King Live, Greta Van Susteren, Mark and Mercedez Morning Show on Mix 94.1 KMXB in Las Vegas, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet on WFLD, Fox 6 News San Diego, The Glenn Beck Program, and THE 9 on Yahoo!. Honolulu news outlet KHNL reported on August 1, 2007 that the arrest warrant issued for Chapman and his associates might be invalidated, as a Mexican court had found that the statute of limitations regarding the arrest had expired. The 15-page legal order was released in Spanish and was translated and verified for legal accuracy. On September 29, 2006, Chapman received permission to have the electronic monitoring device removed temporarily so that he could travel to the East Coast for previously planned appearances. On August 2, 2007, the First Criminal Court in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, dismissed all criminal charges pending against Duane, Leland and Tim Chapman on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The order effectively cancelled all pending charges. The prosecution appealed the ruling; this is standard practice in Mexico, according to A&E. On November 5, 2007, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren dismissed the extradition attempt, saying that even though the cases were appealed, the trio are no longer charged with any crimes.
Chapman, after decades of bounty hunting, was featured on Take This Job, a program about people with unusual occupations. This led him and the show's production company to do a spin-off about his work in capturing bail fugitives, in particular Chapman's efforts in hunting down Max Factor cosmetics heir Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. After Luster's jailing, Chapman was interviewed for the August 28, 2003 episode of the truTV television series Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice. By now Chapman's profile had come to the attention of the American public. It was during this time A&E decided to create an ongoing reality series around his bounty hunting job. On August 30, 2004, the first series of Dog the Bounty Hunter made its television debut.
The theme song was performed by Ozzy Osbourne.
It was cancelled after eight seasons in 2012.
On September 25, 2012, CMT announced it had ordered a new reality series which would begin airing in April 2013. The new series, titled Dog and Beth: On the Hunt, features Chapman, his wife Beth, and Chapman's son Leland visiting failing bail bond agencies across the country, giving them advice on how to turn their businesses around, and assisting in the capture of their most wanted fugitives.
The show's pilot episode featured Chapman and his son Leland working together for the first time since the son left the previous show in 2012.
Chapman released his autobiography, You Can Run But You Can't Hide in 2007. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
His second book, Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given was published in 2010.Chapman and Beth appeared in the Corner Gas episode "Coming Distractions", in which - during a daydream - they show up to arrest Brent.
Chapman appeared with his wife Beth on the Criss Angel Mindfreak one-hour special. Dog tied Criss Angel up to a chair and lowered him into a hot tub. After four minutes, Criss loosened the ties but could not fully free himself.
Chapman appeared as himself in an episode of George Lopez, wherein George goes to his mother's neighborhood to pick up her pet dog and meets "Dog" instead.
Chapman appeared as himself in the season two finale "The Trial" of the NBC show My Name Is Earl, capturing Joy Darville in Mexico.
Chapman and Beth attended Gene Simmons' wedding to Shannon Tweed on Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
Duane, Beth, Leland and Lyssa Chapman all appear in the pre-credits segment of the Hawaii Five-0 episode "Na Ki'i" with Duane Chapman interacting briefly with Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin). Duane makes additional cameos throughout Season 6, with a recurring role in Season 7.
Chapman has a cameo in the television film Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, as a chainsaw dealer.
In early October 2007, Chapman gained negative public attention after a private phone conversation between him and his son, Tucker, was leaked to the media. The conversation was about the relationship his son was having with an African-American girl. Chapman was heard to be angry and used the word "nigger" in the recording. Once the tape was made public, A&E announced it was suspending production of Chapman's TV series pending an investigation. On October 31, 2007, Chapman issued a public apology. But on November 2, 2007, A&E announced it was removing the show from their schedule "for the foreseeable future."
On December 21, 2007, Roy Innis, the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality and a member of the National Rifle Association's governing board, and one of the first to petition the A&E network to have the show taken off the air, met with Alicia Colon of the New York Sun and Chapman. Later Innis said, "After meeting with him and his wife, Beth, and hearing his side of the story, we realized that the controversy had unjustly spiraled out of control without context. Duane has taken ownership of the damage of his words and has taken on the responsibility of being a racial healer for our country... I have been with this man several times and had extensive dialogues with him. I consider him and his wife good friends. Duane is a changed man and has a higher purpose. Popular television is a wasteland of meaningless titillation and degradation. The Dog's potential to take his celebrity and turn it into something redeeming for our culture and society is immense. It is for these reasons that we want his television show back on the air."
On February 19, 2008, A&E announced that Chapman's TV show would return to production.
Chapman's first child, Christopher Michael Hecht, is from a teenage relationship with Debbie White. Chapman was not aware of the child's existence, and Christopher was adopted after White's suicide. Upon reaching adulthood, Christopher was reunited with his father when his grandmother contacted Chapman to tell him he had a grown son. Chapman married La Fonda Sue Honeycutt on April 1, 1972, in Pampa, Texas; they divorced October 27, 1977, while he was in prison. They had two children together, Duane Lee Chapman II and Leland Chapman. Although the boys were not allowed to see their father for several years, they began rebuilding a relationship when they were 11 and 8 years old. Later, when they began getting into trouble as teenagers, Chapman obtained custody of them.
Chapman married Anne M. Tegnell on August 22, 1979, in Colorado. They were divorced, according to court records, on August 5, 1982. Three children resulted from this marriage: Zebediah Duane Chapman, Wesley Chapman, and J.R. "James" Chapman. Zebediah died shortly after birth in 1980. Wesley and J.R. were raised by their mother in Utah.
Chapman married Lyssa Rae Brittain on June 22, 1982. They were divorced on November 20, 1991. That marriage resulted in three children: Barbara Katie "B.K" Chapman, (1982–2006), Tucker Dee Chapman, and Lyssa "Baby Lyssa" Rae Chapman. Chapman retained custody of the children as they grew up, although the girls went to live with their mother as young teenagers. Barbara Katie died in a car accident in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2006, the day before her father's wedding to Beth Smith.
Chapman and Tawny Marie were married in 1992, but filed for divorce in 1994. Court records show they were officially divorced in 2002. Tawny had a daughter from a prior marriage, but no children with Chapman. Chapman later said, "Tawny coerced me into marrying her. I told her I didn't want to marry her because I liked women too much to settle down ... I knew in my heart that marrying Tawny was a mistake. She was all wrong for me ... Despite my misgivings, I married Tawny ... It was a disaster from the start."
Chapman met his fifth (and current) wife, Alice Elizabeth "Beth" Barmore (née Smith), in 1986 when she was 19. Throughout the next decade, they had an on-and-off romantic relationship, even marrying others. Beth has two children from previous relationships, Dominic Davis (taken into state custody when Beth was 17 years old) and Cecily Barmore-Chapman (from her previous marriage to her first husband, who was Chapman's best friend in high school). In 1995, Chapman and Beth joined forces in business and life, finally blending their families and moving in together. Beth runs the bail bonds office and goes bounty hunting with her husband, often counseling the detainees. After 16 years together, they married on May 20, 2006, at a Hilton hotel on Waikoloa Village in Hawaii. Besides Beth's daughter Cecily, whom Chapman has adopted, they have two children together, Bonnie Joanne Chapman and Garry Chapman. Dominic rejoined the family as an adult, when Chapman located him for Beth.
Recently, Duane Chapman, Beth Chapman, his sons Leland Chapman and Duane Lee Chapman II, and his daughter Lyssa Chapman all worked together as bail bondsmen and bounty hunters. Their work was the subject of the Dog the Bounty Hunter show, which ran for eight seasons on A&E. The March 21, 2012 episode showed Duane Lee telling Beth “You want me fired, you gotta fire me," and then Leland weighed in, saying "I quit too." In 2012, the two brothers admitted leaving the show. Duane Lee and Leland severed all ties with their family. Afterwards, Leland began operating his own bail bond company on the Big Island of Hawaii and heading Bounty Hunter Tactical Supply Co.