While most people have a vague idea of what bounty hunters do, their specific duties and responsibilities are often a mystery. Bounty hunters are fugitive recovery agents for bail bonds and are given the responsibility to safely apprehend criminal fugitives who have posted bail, but have failed to appear in court. Most bounty hunters are licensed and formally-trained professionals who have an important role in the commercial bail bond business as well as the criminal justice system. Bounty hunters also frequently work for bail bondsmen throughout the country. Bounty hunting is legal in all but four states. Oregon, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Illinois have all outlawed the practice.
Bounty hunters are able to work either directly for bail bond companies or as independent contractors yet their overall task remains the same. They receive orders from bail bondsmen and typically receive approximately 10 percent of the total bail bond upon capture of the fugitive. The National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents report that bounty hunters are successful in apprehending nearly 90 percent of bail jumpers. Bounty hunters work in collaboration with bail bondsmen, who provide key information about the fugitive to help aide in the successful search and apprehension.
Easier said than done!
Bounty hunting isn’t as easy as it may appear on some television shows and can often involve dangerous tasks. The process of searching for and apprehending a fugitive involves pulling resources and requires multiple steps including:
- Researching through databases and social media to determine the fugitive’s whereabouts.
- Staking out last known locations that can last days to weeks.
- Interviewing friends, family members, neighbors, and any other contacts to obtain as much information as possible.
- Confirming the exact location of a fugitive and planning the apprehension.
Bounty Hunter Skill Set
A career in bounty hunting requires a specific skill set including street smarts, investigative skills, and self-defense tactics. In order to be successful, bounty hunters must learn the art of surveillance, negotiations, and performing research. Often, bounty hunters are former police officers or private detectives although many who choose this career path do not possess prior experience in law enforcement. If you choose to pursue this career choice, you should expect to go through an examination process that tests your knowledge of state laws and weapon handling.
This can often be a lucrative pursuit, bringing in an income of between $50,000 and $80,000 annually for experienced bounty hunters. There are a few other factors to consider before jumping into the field. First, you generally need to pass a background check to become licensed. If you are not a convicted felon, then this task is usually a piece of cake. Second, you must have a permit to carry a firearm. While this depends on where you live, if you plan on traveling across state lines, you would be better off crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s. Lastly, you may want to seek out a mentor who is already in the business. Building your name is the best way to earn more money.
With this career comes dangerous circumstances. Bounty hunters must prepare themselves to deal with fugitives who test their physical agility and mental capabilities. Unlike general 9 to 5 jobs, bounty hunters only receive financial compensation after the successful apprehension of a fugitive. Given that the profession relies solely on the ability to complete the assigned job, many choose to use it as a supplement versus a full time gig. If you decide that this is the job for you, carefully overlook all aspects of bounty hunting and balance the pros and cons.