In this modern time, the bounty hunter is not to be confused with the Hollywood image of someone who hunts down the bad guys for a posted reward. The professional bounty hunter of today is known as a “fugitive recovery” or “(bail) bond enforcement agent.” The job primarily involves tracking down someone for whom your client has put up bail money to get them out of jail while awaiting trial and they have not shown up for their court date.
The first thing you must take into consideration is that while the Supreme Court backs bounty hunting, the bounty hunter is not a law enforcement officer. The bounty hunter is a private citizen who must comport himself within the laws governing such activity. This will require research to determine the specific regulations from state to state that taking on a position whether employed by a bail bondsman or freelancing. Some states require the bounty hunter or bond recovery officer to wear special identifying clothing and will most likely have to acquire any needed permits in order to carry a weapon.
Training is critical for your safety. It should always be assumed that anyone who has gone fugitive will be armed. Even though a civilian, the person seeking this type of employment should take training courses in self-defense, military or actual law enforcement procedures. You must understand the potential dangers of your chosen profession. If the bail jumper had not wanted to be free, he would not have run. You can always expect that they will not go willingly back to jail with you.
Learning to do accurate and extensive research is also a necessary for the successful bounty-hunting career. You must learn the art and abilities of a detective and utilize these skills to be able to interview the fugitive’s friends or family. You must be able to access various records including phone and skip trace files and be able to analyze and understand the information. You will need to develop contacts and sources of information within your normal area of operation. This includes motel and hotel clerks who see many people come and go on a regular basis. Use anything that you can use to be able to discover about a person’s past will help you in locating where they might be hiding. With this information you may find someone who is willing to tell you where the person is.
Once you have obtained adequate training and developed your detective and research skills, you will still need to find a client. The bounty hunter is usually a self-employed contractor so advertising is another aspect of your job that needs to be understood. Once you have a client and an assignment, there are specific steps that must be taken to assure you will receive your payment (on average about 10% of the bail amount). This includes not only certified copies of the bond agreement but a “power of attorney” from the bondsman so you may legally have the right to apprehend someone on their behalf.
If your target leads you outside the United States, you must be extra careful in your activities as bail bonding is illegal in all other countries and your activities there can put you in jail if caught. Four of the states of the United States have abolished bail bonding, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin, all of which will look upon the bounty hunter as a vigilante. While Tennessee allows bonding, it does not allow bounty hunting within its borders.
Know the laws and fugitive recovery can be an exciting and fairly rewarding career. The average bounty hunter can expect to make between $50,000 to $80,000 a year although the work week may comprise between 80 to 100 hours per week in its execution.