Officially called bail enforcement agents or fugitive recovery agents, bounty hunters track down and capture fugitives. In return, the bounty hunter receives monetary compensation—the bounty. Bounty hunters are unofficial law enforcement agents tasked with returning defendants who have failed to appear in court and, thus, forfeited bail. Bounty hunters are independent contractors who work for bail bond companies whenever one of the companies’ clients decides to jump bail.
Only in the Republic of the Philippines and the United States is bounty hunting officially permitted. In every other country of the world, law enforcement agencies hunt down and return fugitives. Bounty hunters function as investigators, perform surveillance when necessary, make arrests, and transport prisoners back to the proper authorities. In all these functions, bounty hunters must work within state and federal laws.
There are no specific educational requirements for bounty hunters, and they do not have to meet any formal academic standards. Many states, however, do mandate that bounty hunters be licensed in their profession. Bounty hunters must understand the laws of any state they may operate in, for each state has different regulations by which they must abide. For example, in some states, bounty hunters may not carry a weapon. In other states, they are required to wear visible identification. While in other states, such as Kentucky, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Illinois, bounty hunting is actually against the law.
Successful bounty hunters are highly trained in martial arts and general self-defense tactics, along with experts in fire arms. They also know how to employ strict security measures and utilize advanced technology, and they are expert negotiators.
Work Environment for a Bounty Hunter
Landing a job as a bounty hunter is not as simple as filling out an application. Most bounty hunters are recruited by bail bond companies, placed under a mentor as an apprentice, and later become full-fledged bounty hunters. Applicants are advised to approach bail bond companies and make inquiries about employment possibilities.
Bounty hunters travel extensively and do not work normal 9-to-5 hours. The working conditions are often dangerous. Pursuing fugitives demands intelligence and a willingness to work under all types of conditions at all hours.
Advancement and promotion as a bounty hunter is based primarily upon experience and proven ability. Bail bond companies prefer to work with bounty hunters they are familiar with and who have demonstrated their capabilities. The employment outlook for bounty hunters is expected to be average through 2020. The favorable outlook is due to the large numbers of people regularly jumping bail and fleeing, thus becoming fugitives. Bounty hunters with formal certification and experience should find employment.
The average yearly salary for bounty hunters is $62,500 according to the BLS. Those with experience and talent can make much more, and benefit packages have to be negotiated with bail bond companies.