Bounty Hunter Careers and Job Description

Although most people have a vague idea of what bounty hunters do, their specific duties and responsibilities are often a mystery. Bounty hunters serve as fugitive recovery agents for the bail bonds industry and are responsible for the safe apprehension of criminal fugitives who have posted bail, but have failed to appear in court.

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The majority of bounty hunters are licensed and formally-trained professionals who play an important role in both the commercial bail bond business and the criminal justice system. Bounty hunters can be found working for bail bondsmen all over the country. In fact, there are just four states where the practice of bounty hunting has been outlawed – Oregon, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Who are Bounty Hunters?

Bounty hunters are trained to apprehend fugitives who do not meet the conditions of their bond by showing up for their scheduled court date. In most cases they are licensed professionals who work on a freelance basis or as employees of a bail bonds company.

Even in states without licensing requirements, fugitive recovery agents must abide by specific laws that regulate the practice of bounty hunting. When considering a career in bounty hunting, it is important to research the state-specific statutes governing this profession.

The fugitive recovery services of a bounty hunter are required when a bail bondsman secures a bail bond for a defendant, but then revokes the bond because the defendant did not adhere to the conditions of the bond. Most of the time, a revoked bond is due to a defendant failing to appear in court.

Bounty hunters, who either work directly for bail bonds company or as an independent contractor, must find and apprehend the fugitive upon receiving orders from the bail bondsman. In return, the bounty hunter typically receives about 10 percent of the total bail bond.

According to the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents, bounty hunters manage to find and apprehend nearly 90 percent of all bail jumpers.

Bounty Hunter Job Description

The process of finding and apprehending a fugitive often involves the following multi-step approach:

  • Bounty hunters research their subjects using databases and social media and determine their last known whereabouts.
  • Bounty hunters stake out the fugitive’s last known whereabouts, which may involve days or even weeks of work.
  • Bounty hunters interview friends, family members, neighbors and acquaintances of the fugitive to glean more information on their whereabouts. Many times, bounty hunters work directly with the individual who put up the bail collateral for the accused.
  • Bounty hunters confirm the whereabouts of the fugitive and determine the appropriate time and place to make the arrest. This often involves the element of surprise so as to ensure the successful capture of the fugitive.

In accordance with most state laws, a bounty hunter can only begin pursuing a fugitive after receiving authorization from a bail bondsman. This gives them the authority and legal right to arrest the fugitive on behalf of the bail bondsman. This usually involves acquiring a certified copy of the bond from the bail bondsman. The bail bondsman often provides the bounty hunter with key, personal information about the fugitive so as to better facilitate a successful search and apprehension.

Preparing for a Career in Bounty Hunting

Those who embark on a career in bounty hunting must be fully prepared to enter a job that requires street smarts, investigative skills, as well as skills related to self-defense. To be successful, bounty hunters must be proficient in everything from surveillance to negotiations, and they must be able to perform the research necessary to get leads on the likely location of criminal fugitives desperate to avoid capture.

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It is common for private detectives and even former police officers to pursue careers in bounty hunting. Still, many bounty hunters enjoy very successful careers without prior training or experience in law enforcement.

Because most states require the licensure or registration of bounty hunters, those new to the profession should expect to qualify through an examination designed to ensure they are familiar with state laws governing their duties and limitations.  Further, many states allow bounty hunters to carry firearms or other non-lethal weapons, which often requires additional certification.

Bounty hunters must be prepared to deftly handle physically and mentally strenuous and often dangerous circumstances, all the while swiftly apprehending fugitives and bringing them to justice. Since bounty hunters only receive financial compensation when they successfully apprehend a fugitive, success in this profession relies solely on their ability to get the job done.


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