Bounty Hunter

Bounty Hunter

If you watched shows like “One for the Money” and “The Fall Guy”, you must have nurtured a secret desire of being a bounty hunter at some point? Bounty hunting may not be exactly a cakewalk. However, it is quite an exciting job that can be quite lucrative for people with the right training and aptitude.

Who is a Bounty hunter?

The term refers to professionals who are paid to track down convicts and lawbreakers for a bounty or financial reward. In the field of bail, the word “bounty hunter” refers to bail recovery agents who hunt down defendants who have jumped bail and escaped trial. They are entrusted to spot such people and bring them to court.

Bounty hunting professionals are also known as “Bond Enforcement Agents”. The profession is backed by the 1872 Taylor v. Taintor Supreme Court case.

Is Bounty Hunting Legal?

This is a legal profession, although it is acknowledged only in the U.S and the Philippines. It is not recognized as a legal activity in any other country of the world.

How Bounty hunters Work?

Generally, these people have greater authority to arrest a “bail jumper” than any other law enforcement agent. Once a defendant signs a bail bond, he or she technically enters into a legal agreement. According to this document, they can be arrested by bail agent and taken to any state if they jump bail.

Once a defendant “jumps” bail and escapes trial, the bail bondsman who paid for his release contacts a Bounty hunter. The person is handed over a copy of the “bail piece”, which is a document indicating that the defendant is a fugitive. In some states, the person is provided with a certified copy of the bail bond. This authorizes the bail recovery agent with great power. With such authority, a bounty hunter can:

  • Arrest a person without a warrant
  • Arrest a fugitive without reading Miranda Rights to him or her
  • Enter a private property without announcing themselves

However, there are also certain rules and regulations that a bail recovery agent must abide by. While they can enter into the home of a person unannounced, they can only do so after they have made sure that the fugitive lives or has taken refuge there. They are not authorized to enter the homes of family members or friends of a fugitive only out of suspicion.

Bounty hunting professionals are allowed to search the mails of the fugitive and trace his/her telephone calls to know about the whereabouts. They may also talk to the people in the locality of the defendant who might have seen the person.

Generally, such professionals operate as an agent of a bail agent (bondsman) and receive a contingency fee once they successfully apprehend a bail jumper and return him/her to authorities in the proper jurisdiction.

Are Bounty hunters licensed?

Not all of them have a license for carrying out operations. In some U.S states, bail recovery agents require a license. Some states require bounty hunters only to register with them to operate. Only a few states like Oregon, Kentucky and Illinois prohibit these professionals from arresting defendants who have jumped bail. Bounty hunters require a court order to operate in such states. The judge usually orders the local police to make the arrest.

Bounty hunters are also unauthorized to take their fugitives outside the boundaries of U.S. If they are found to wander across international borders, they can be arrested or even shot.

How to be a Bounty Hunter?

You have to get necessary training to obtain to become a bail bonds recovery agent. Degrees are not required to become professionals in bounty hunting. However, you can get yourself enrolled in any of the independent, state-certified schools that train bail enforcement agents. You should get adequate knowledge of law enforcement and military or self defense training to carry out your job as safely as you can.

Once you have got the training, you can get in touch with a local bail bond agency or bondsman. Show your qualifications and offer your services. Once you get an assignment, you will be handed over a copy of the “bail piece”. This is a document that shows that the “bail jumper” is a fugitive and must be arrested. You will also be given a power of attorney. This will authorize you with the power to arrest the bail jumper on behalf of the bail bonds agent. You must be licensed to carry firearms. You may need weapons while catching violent criminals who have jumped bail. However, you have to remember that you will not be authorized to carry firearms in some states. It is essential to make a research about the legal requirements of various U.S states to know about the limitations that you have in catching a suspect.

Bounty Hunter Education

importance_of_education_1This profession does not require getting any formal degrees from any institution. However, there are some independent schools that are certified by the state to train fugitive hunters and grant them certification. The credentials of a successful, professional bounty hunter can be highly enhanced with a degree in criminal justice and on-field job experience. The standards of licensing, training and legal restrictions of bounty hunters differ from state to state. For example, some states require hunters to have a state license while others simply need to be registered with the state. Some states forbid these professionals from carrying firearms. However, most states require bond enforcement agents to be at least 18 years of age. Some increase the age limit to 21 years. The Division of Insurance of each state is able to provide particular information about the regulations applicable for bounty hunting professionals in that specific state.

Fugitive Recovery Agent Equipments

Tracking down “bail jumpers”, many of whom are dreaded criminals or escaped convicts, can be dangerous for the life of a fugitive recovery agent. Due to this, such professionals are allowed to carry guns, knives, mace or other weapons. Some of them use state-of-the-art spy gadgets, such as night vision goggles or exit-sign video cameras, to track bail skippers.

Fugitive hunters also often use a metal detector. This is basically a metal shaft attached to a coil which is used in searching fugitives. The equipment is able to sense metals. A stabilizer allows the shaft to remain stable when no movements occur. The most popular Bounty Hunter Metal Detectors are Whites and The Fisher.

However, an “element of surprise” is the most powerful tool in the arsenal of a recovery agent. This means, they are allowed to pose as a newspaper boy, meter reader or UPS delivery person to gain access to the residence of a fugitive. Professional bounty hunters never kill or bash up defendants unless provoked. This is partly due to integrity of the professional and partly due to the promise of a reward that fugitives carry. Killing a defendant will shatter all hopes of a monetary reward. Beating up a fugitive is also risky as jails do not accept people with large bruises or broken bones due to the legal liability involved.

In actuality, violence is seldom necessary for recovery agents. Firstly, most violent criminals are never granted bail. Secondly, most fugitives do little more than squirm or run away at the sight of a bounty hunter. Most do not fight or try to resist an arrest.

Bounty Hunter Salary

Bond enforcement agents typically pocket a percentage of the total bail amount (generally 10%) for their services. Those with good experience in the field can earn around $ 50,000 – 80,000 every year. The salary of a fugitive hunter fluctuates and depends on factors like:

  • Education of the professional
  • Experience of the professional
  • Type of fugitive
  • Risks involved with the case

If they take up cases that involve tracking down serious offenders, the bounty can go up. However, those willing to chase only low-risk fugitives have to settle for a lesser amount. A fresher in the field can earn approximately $25,000 in their first year. The money involved with a bail bond can vary between $500-100,000. On an average, the amount can be around $4,000. A standard bounty equals to an approximate 10% of the bail amount.

Bounty hunter ID

Bounty hunters have a secondary form of identification in the form of a Photo ID Card. This is a double sided card made of thick card stock and printed in two colors. The card should be accompanied by certification and licensing documents. Bounty hunting professionals should also carry a passport, state driving license or any other Government Issued ID card that works as a primary form of identification.

A standard card of this type contains the name, level of completion and photo of the agent. It proclaims the professional as an independent BOUNTY HUNTER. It mentions some of the powers that the person is entitled to, such as:

  • Crossing the state lines
  • Carrying specialized weapons
  • Using necessary force in nabbing fugitives

An ID card always mentions that the agent operates under the protection of the law, particularly the 1872 Taylor vs. Taintor Supreme Court Ruling. Most identity cards are designed to fit into badges or standard ID wallets. These days, bounty hunter cards can be ordered online. People ordering them need to be submit their own customized information to get the cards made as per their requirements.

Fugitive Recovery Agent Badges

Badges for Bail Enforcement Agents are available in shiny gold finish, antique silver and brass finish. These come equipped with a strong pin and safety clasp attachment. These can be ordered online from the websites of any of the professional badge creators. These command attention and set fugitive hunters apart from normal citizens.

Fugitive Recovery Agent Clothing

Some states need fugitive recovery agents to wear special type of clothing with badges and ID cards that clearly highlight their profession. This immediately makes ordinary citizens aware of the profession of the professional and co-operate with him. However, such clothes can also make agents an easy target for fugitives. Naturally, fugitive hunters should have adequate knowledge of self-defense techniques to protect themselves.

The clothing of a fugitive recovery agent usually includes:

  • Covert gear
  • Professional badges
  • Badge holders/wallets
  • Photo ID cards
  • GPS Tracking Devices
  • Gear bags
  • Knives and other weapons

Fugitive Recovery Agent Requirements

Know about some of the requirements for becoming a fugitive hunting agent.

Proper physical training

Adequate physical training is necessary to become a fugitive recovery agent. You have to daily train on your own or practice with other bounty hunting agents. Bounty hunting is a dangerous profession. Physical training is extremely necessary to survive a life-threatening encounter in this field. Strength-training, cardiovascular exercises and endurance-training are musts in the workout regimen for an agent. You should also be prepared in:

  • Self-defense techniques
  • Handling firearms
  • Using firearms in low-light or night time
  • Arrest methods
  • Building entries

You should be able to live by the adage “everybody goes home alive.” Safety is important for you as well as your fugitive. Even if you catch a fugitive who is trying to escape by violent means, you should be able to nab him/her by causing minimum injuries.

Association with a bail agency

Get in touch with bail bond agencies to know whether they are recruiting bounty hunters. Generally, you will not be permitted to work as a bounty hunter unless you enter into an employment agreement with a licensed bail bond company. Bounty hunters often have a problem finding steady work. You can contact all the bail bond agencies in your area to find work on a steady basis.

Register your fingerprint

The process requires you to visit your local police station. You have to request the cops to take your fingerprint and prepare a card for yourself. The fingerprint card is only made after the police conduct a FBI criminal record search and background investigation for you. You will have to pay a small charge to the police for this service. Once the fingerprint card is prepared, you will have to submit it as well as a check (as an application fee) to the licensing agency.

Fulfill Residency laws

Some states require bounty hunters to meet residency laws before they are issued a license to operate by the state. This means, you have to be a citizen of the United States to get the permission. In some states, individuals need to live in a U.S state for a specific time period before being granted a license. The time period for most of these residency requirements vary from six months to a year.

Pass tests

In some states, individuals need to pass a test and obtain at least 70% marks or higher to be granted a working license.

If you have been charged with felon, you are not likely to have great chances of becoming a fugitive recovery agent. Contrary to what series like Dog the Bounty Hunter may show, felons generally do not become successful as bounty hunters. Duane “Dog” Chapman is an exception. This is because felons have to meet various certification or licensing requirements. Bounty hunting laws are strict in various states. Although some states do not have strict requirements, bail bond companies may shy away from working with felons due to the high liabilities involved.

Bail Recovery Agent Schools

In recent years, many institutes and training academies have started offering courses in bail enforcement and hunting fugitives. Here is a list of some of the main academies in New York that offer qualifying courses for bail enforcement agents.

High-Tech Investigation School of Bail Enforcement
1266 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY – 11216;
Contact no: (347) 612-8796.

Meridian Law Enforcement & Security Training Center
300 Northern Blvd Rm 7/103
Great Neck, NY   11021
(516) 504-1911

International Security School Inc
88-11a 169th Street
Jamaica, NY 11432
(718) 658-0000

Nekhet Combat Science Center Inc
349 Marion Street
Brooklyn, NY 11233
(800) 507-4023

Sunset Park Security Training School
6310 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY   11220
(718) 439-4900

The courses usually stretch for around 25 hours. All members must complete the required number of hours to finish the course. Students must obtain 100% grades to complete the course of instruction. Many institutes also train candidates in personal defense techniques.

If you are interested in this field, you can also consider working with instructors having relevant experience in tracking down fugitives. You may also find useful information by attending conferences periodically organized for bail enforcement professionals. Attending training seminars for private investigators, doing an internship for bail bond agencies and going through ebooks and training manuals on the profession can also be highly useful.


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