Bounty hunters track down, find, capture and retrieve defendants who have skipped bail. This is a unique job – and a dangerous job as well. Bounty hunters work long hours, in nasty neighborhoods, interact with tough and desperate people – and love it.
The rush of adrenaline they get when they get their prey if worth it all – even getting shot, stabbed or beaten up. This tough life is for tough people, and bounty hunters are a breed of their own.
Job description: The job of a bounty hunter is simple – track down an apprehend criminals who have skipped their bail. Bounty hunters go by several names: Fugitive recovery officer, bail officer, bail enforcement agent and of course bounty hunter.
The job of a bounty hunter / fugitive recovery officer is not exactly as same as Hollywood pictures it. Bounty hunters usually work for or are contracted by bail bondsmen.
Bail bondsmen are those who bail out defendants in exchange for an upfront payment (usually 10%-20% of the original bail amount – which the defendant pays the bail bondsman). In exchange, the court allows the defendant free and holds the bail bondsman responsible, and if the defendant skips out on his court appearance, charges the bail bondsman for the whole amount of the original bail.
If the defendant does skip bail (called “skipper”, and sources estimate that roughly 20% do skip bail), then the bail bondsman will contact a bounty hunter / fugitive recovery officer to find and return the defendant, before the bail bondsman is charged by the court for the full amount of the original bail.
The bail bondsman will provide the bounty hunter with as many details as possible about the defendant, leaving the bounty hunter to find him.
The bounty hunter will investigate and hunt down his prey. The investigation / stake out process can take a longtime, and can be very tedious. It usually involves scouting and hanging around the defendants known hangouts, tracing calls and credit cards, and even tipping off bouncers, clerks and others who may know the defendant.
Finally, after the defendant has been located, the bounty hunter must successfully handcuff him – using wits, the element of surprise and sometimes just talking. The capture may be tough though, as the defendant may fight back hard or try to escape – this is the dangerous part of the job. After successfully apprehending the defendant, the bounty hunter drives the defendant to the original state in which he is prosecuted, which can be thousands of miles away.
Work environment: The work environment of bounty hunters and fugitive recovery officers is the neighborhoods of those they are looking for. Since the vast majority of defendants skipping bail come from low income and rough backgrounds, bounty hunters spend a lot of their time in bad neighborhoods, interacting with people from the lowest ranks of society, and of course spending many hours in their car staking out potential hang outs of their target.
This job can be anywhere, anytime and can be very short, or take a long time. Bounty hunters can find themselves in all weather conditions, and working at any time of day.
Also, bounty hunters may change their location quickly, and travel frequently.
Fatality rates: There is no data collected about bounty hunter and fugitive recovery agent’s death, fatality or injury rates.
Gender: The vast majority of bounty hunters are male, as sometimes brute force and an intimidating look is essential – but there are some women bounty hunters as well.
What makes it a dangerous job: The main danger associated with bounty hunters is their target – who will not always come with them happily. Bounty hunters and fugitive recovery officers face gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and injuries from fist fights. Some defendants skipping bail are desperate, and will stop at nothing to get away from the bounty hunter, so bounty hunter must expect everything. The instinct to flee at any cost turns this into a dangerous job.
Hours / Lifestyle: The hours and lifestyle of bounty hunter are irregular – this occupation has no routine at all. Many bounty hunters spend many hours tracking down their prey, and 80 – 100 work hours a week are not uncommon. Also, bounty hunters can work all ours, and many times work all night. Working on weekends and holidays can also happen. The nature of the job calls for quick response to news and tips, and bounty hunters can find themselves frequently moving, traveling and changing locations.
Pay: The bounty hunters / fugitive recovery officers salary depends largely on the amount of “skippers” they actually locate and bring back, which in turn depends on their experience and connections. Bounty hunters normally work for 10% of the original bail set – so if the bail was $50,000, the bounty hunter will receive $5000 for retrieving the skipper. New and inexperienced bounty hunters earn around $25,000 – $35,000 annually, and the more experienced and busy bounty hunters earn $100,000 or more each year.
Requirements: Requirements to being a bounty hunter vary by state: some require a license, while others demand some sort of criminal justice degree or courses. Some states have outlawed bounty hunting altogether.
The real requirements though aren’t taught in a classroom – to be a successful bounty hunter you must have intelligence, cunning, wits and the ability to anticipate, outthink and outsmart your prey.
Training: Before enrolling into any training program – it is highly recommended to check it’s validity and curriculum. Bounty hunter training includes courses on criminology, firearms, prisoner transport and legal aspects to bounty hunting.
Career opportunities: Many bounty hunters work on their own as independent contractors. This occupation does not have many corporations that one can advance in. Career opportunities for bounty hunters can involve opening and starting his own business, becoming a bail bondsman or training new bounty hunters.
Job opportunities: Job opportunities are only in states where bounty hunting is legal (such as Kentucky) Other than that – bounty hunter job opportunities will be found in states where the bail bondsmen system is in place, and has decent business volume.
Job prospects: There are no estimates about the future job prospects for bounty hunters, as this is a small trade, and it is difficult to apply statistics and measurements to it. However, it can be said that as long as the bail bondsmen system is in place, a need for bounty hunters will exist.
Further reading material:
Other dangerous miscellaneous jobs:
Photo by: doviende / flickr