The career of a bounty hunter is unique to the United States and legal only in the U.S. and the Philippines. Other terms for this job are bail enforcement agent, fugitive recovery agent, and bail fugitive investigator. The job description is simple – a bounty hunter captures fugitives from justice in exchange for a monetary reward (the bounty).
When the court sets bail for a defendant, the defendant will often pay 10% of the bond amount while the bail bondsman guarantees the remaining 90 percent. If the defendant shows up for trial, the bondsman earns the 10 percent paid to him or her initially and he is in profit.
If the defendant eludes bail by not showing up for court, it is the bail bondsman who is responsible for paying the remaining 90 percent of the bond to the court. Bounty hunters are most often hired by bail bondsmen to recover a fugitive and return him to the court.
Most bounty hunters are self-employed and offer their services to bail bond companies for 5-10 percent of the bond set for the fugitive.
Bounty Hunter Requirements
Some states do not have any training requirements for fugitive recovery agents and require only that a bail bondsman sanction the search for a fugitive. Other states have various training and licensing requirements. For example, California requires background checks and completion of several courses to fulfill the penal code of the state, while Louisiana requires the bounty hunter to wear clothing clearly identifying their profession.
Most states prohibit bail enforcement agents from carrying a firearm. Some states impose restrictions on out of state bounty hunters which make those states temporary safe havens for fleeing fugitives.
Bail Enforcement Agent Education and Training
Bounty hunters do not have the legal protections awarded to police officers and can be held liable for injuries inflicted on their targets.
There are several schools that offer training for aspiring bounty hunters. Quite a few of these offer online courses and some are offered by experienced fugitive recovery agents. The most common entry level into this career is to work for a bail bondsman or to offer your services for free to an established bounty hunter.
Useful skills for this career include apprehension techniques and research skills. Working in groups minimizes risk associated with the apprehension of fugitives but this can be a dangerous profession for someone who is untrained and inexperienced.
Although some states require licensing, those licenses are fairly easy to obtain. Working without a license in a state without that requirement will leave you subject to prosecution.
Bounty Hunter Salary
Successful bail bond investigators can earn over $100,000 per year and almost all active bounty hunters earn a minimum of $35,000 in fees annually.
Bounty Hunter Career Opportunities
Experienced fugitive recovery agents often develop their own team of bounty hunters who work together to maximize effective recoveries, minimize the risk of violence, and multiply income potential.
There is also a market for information and training products that teach the techniques and skills of fugitive recovery.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.