What is a bounty hunter? Our popular image of a bounty hunter invokes ripped, leather-clad tough guys breaking down doors. Or we think of rogue cowboys in the Wild West chasing down bandits with Colt Peacemakers.
While exciting, the Hollywood-inspired version of bounty hunting doesn’t capture the day-to-day realities of the job. Bounty hunting isn’t all adrenaline all the time, and bounty hunters need the ability to do more than wave a gun around. This meticulous work involves
a lot of waiting, patience, and investigation.
Why learn about bail enforcement agents (the professional title of bounty hunters)? Bounty hunters help keep the machinery of the justice system moving. We learn a healthy respect for their jobs as we understand their full role in society.
What Is Bounty Hunting?
Bounty hunting doesn’t involve chasing down men with “dead or alive” posters anymore. In fact, bounty hunting has always had a c loser tie to bail bonds than manhunts.
So what do bounty hunters have to do with bail bonds? People who stand accused of crimes pay the court bail, a set amount of money that guarantees they will return to stand trial. Bail often costs a lot, so people call bail bondsmen to pay their way out of jail until the ir court date. The accused has to pay the bail bondsman back. However, if the accused flees, the bondsmen will have to pay the full bail themselves.
To prevent this from happening, bail bondsmen pay bail enforcement agents to track down their fugitive clients. Like cops, bounty hunters follow certain rules and receive special privileges set down by the law, such as the ability to make arrests.
While not always as glamorous as the movies portray, the work of bounty hunting fulfills an essential role in the justice system. Often, police departments don’t have the resources to track down every single person who skips bail. Bail enforcement agents pick up the sla ck to return defendants to court.
How Do Bounty Hunters Start Out?
Under state law, almost anyone could become a bounty hunter. Prospects simply need to register with the state, meet age and back ground requirements, and have at least a high school degree or GED. If they carry weapons, bail enforcement agents must have the proper licensing and training.
However, many bounty hunters go further than the minimum requirements. Many turn to colleges and special education centers for more training. Others also have degrees in related fields, such as forensics. Still more will have experience in law enforcement or the military.
What Are the Common Methods of Bounty Hunters?
When a defendant skips bail, bondsmen will call a trusted bounty hunter to track them down. In most states, bounty hunters have the ability to not only arrest, but also gain access to personal information and enter property where they believe a suspect has hidden. These rights give them a variety of ways to track and apprehend their subjects. We’ve listed those methods below.
Method 1: Study Personal Information
Bail enforcement agents gain access to the subject’s personal information including credit card statements, car information, phone records, and even social media. With this information, a bounty hunter can narrow down possible places where the defendant could have hidden.
Method 2: Track the Streets
Once the bounty hunter has a few leads, they often hit the streets. They usually track down the homes of family members, friends, romantic partners, and other associates. They also make contacts at local gathering places, such as bars, so they can receive instant notifi cation if the suspect visits.
Method 3: Leverage Relations
Bounty hunters often search for family and friends who would help find the suspect or encourage the suspect to turn themselves in. Many times family members have to cosign on the bondsman fee, so they have an interest in making the suspect go to court. Friends or romances might feel jaded and willing to tell the bounty hunter the person’s location. Working with the suspect’s close associates provides some of the best results.
Method 4: Negotiate a Surrender
Most bounty hunters prefer to negotiate with their marks rather than arrest them. Often they will find a way to contact them and convince them of the need to return to court. Bounty hunters often prefer this less dangerous option.
Method 5: Arrest
Other times, bounty hunters feel the need to make an arrest. They often try and trick their quarries to meet them at a neutral location. Bail enforcement agents also will use guns to intimidate subjects into surrendering. Or they will use non-lethal weapons, like mace or Tasers, to subdue their mark. Many bounty hunters prefer the Taser method because it carries less risk.
Bail enforcement represents a tried-and-true method for helping people meet their court dates. While they may not have the job Hollywood likes to portray, they serve an essential function in the justice system. As long as you respect them and their profession (in addition to the law), you’ll never have to meet one on unfriendly terms.