Bounty hunters, officially known as bail enforcement agents, are professionals who help track down, detain, and turn in fugitives and individuals who have skipped out on their bail and return them to the proper court or correctional facility. Since a bail bondsman is obligated to pay the bond guaranteed to the court if a defendant does not appear, they will hire the services of a bounty hunter to research, stake out, and confirm a fugitives’ location. A licensed bounty hunter receives arrest authority through the bail bondsman, allowing them to arrest the fugitive and receive a percentage of the bond for their service.
Bounty hunter requirements vary from state to state, but most states prohibit law enforcement professionals, attorneys, and judicial officers, as well as convicted felons from acting as bail enforcement agents. Before a bounty hunter license is granted, an applicant must possess a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 18 (or in some states 21) years old, be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, have no previous mental illness or alcohol or drug abuse, and meet individual state requirements.
Education and Training
In most states a bounty hunter must complete a training course covering such topics as state laws, the legal system, investigative and negotiation techniques, surveillance, recovery methods, care and custody of prisoners, and bail law before being granted a license. Since most bounty hunters are independent contractors, business skills for office management are crucial, as well as marketing knowledge and networking skills. Previous law enforcement experience may exempt individuals from a training course and the number of course training hours varies by state.
After completing the appropriate education and training, a bounty hunting license is applied for. Documents such as a copy of the applicant’s driver’s license or identification card, a recent photograph, a fingerprint card, a high school diploma or college transcript, a bail enforcement training course certificate, a motor vehicle report, and a recent credit report may be required as well. There is usually a written test and a fee required.
After obtaining a license, some states require that entry-level bounty hunters work as apprentices under experienced bail enforcement agents. After accumulating a certain number of hours they are allowed to advance to higher positions or to work as independent contractors.
Actively licensed bounty hunters must maintain a surety bond in a state-specified amount and / or a liability insurance policy for protection against damages incurred while performing their duties. Employees of bail enforcement agencies are usually exempt from this requirement.
Bounty hunters’ salaries are generally based on commission (often between 10% – 20% of the bond paid for the individual’s release.) Variables include an agent’s skill, experience, area crime rates, number of bounty hunters in area, and ability to bring in more dangerous fugitives.
Maintaining Licensing and Continuing Education
Continuing education is often required during a license’s renewal period. It is also beneficial to for bounty hunters to make individual efforts to continually improve their skills with actions such as working with a mentor, taking additional courses, researching, networking, and staying informed about industry trends.