There are few professions that television and movies have embellished more than that of the bounty hunter. When it comes to awesome-looking bounty hunters who get the job done, look at Boba Fett from The Empire Strikes Back (do not look at Boba Fett from Return of the Jedi, and certainly don’t look at Boba Fett from Attack of the Clones.) Nobody else can find the Millenium Falcon, but he can, because he outthought everyone else.

Then there’s the reality program Dog the Bounty Hunter, which lead people to believe that all bounty hunters looked like professional wrestlers and that every encounter requires brute strength. Of course, what makes for good TV is seldom related to the way things work in real life. While the job is interesting and can sometimes be exciting, it’s not very often that it’s the way you see it on screen.

Where Did It Start?

Like pretty much every job out there, bounty hunting used to be a much more unregulated industry. We’re all familiar with WANTED posters from Old West; with few lawmen and millions of square miles to cover, anyone could get in on the work. Did you see someone on a wanted poster cross your ranch? Track them down and you could be $500 richer! All it takes is sneaking up on them with a gun and hoping they can’t outdraw you.

Other times people would be “professional” bounty hunters, those who might go from town to town looking at the wanted posters and then heading out to find the accused. They were acting legally, though at the time they had no license or training. However, the phrase “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” was most likely a Hollywood invention. You don’t really want everyone going around and killing people willy-nilly! Most of the time phrases such as “captured and delivered” were used on such posters.

Today, most bounty hunters prefer the term “recovery agents.” For this article we’re going to stick with bounty hunter because, frankly, it sounds cooler.

Is the Bounty Hunter Called Immediately?

You might think that a bail bond company might hire a bounty hunter the second a person fails to show up for a court date. They could call one up immediately, but there are many reasons why a bondsman won’t call a bounty hunter for days, weeks, or even months.

The Accused Contacts the Bail Bond Agency – In many cases, the accused themselves will call up the bail bond agency and tell them why they didn’t show up for court. Sometimes it’s perfectly legitimate excuse, such as sickness or a broken-down vehicle. In most cases, the judge is understanding and will reschedule the court date.

The Bail Bond Agency Contacts The Accused – Agent: “You didn’t show up in court today.” Accused: “Oh, that was today?” Yeah, it happens a lot. Some people — especially those who know that the legal system is quite allowing and tolerant of missing a court date — won’t even put the date on their calendar.

Are we happy when this happens? No. It’s more work for us and might get the accused tossed in jail if the judge isn’t having a good day. But we’re not going to call a bounty hunter immediately if we can contact the person who’s out on one of our jail bonds.

Bounty Hunters Cost Money! – A bail bond agent wants to put off calling a bounty hunter for a long as possible for one simple fact: employing a bounty hunter costs money. The bondsman wants to exhaust all other possibilities and allow the accused to show up on their own before employing a recovery agent.

So When Is the Bounty Hunter Called?

After multiple attempts to get ahold of the person who is out on bail, the bail bond agent will go ahead and call a bounty hunter. This can happen any time prior to the bail bond company having to pay out the summary judgment to the court. Bond agents often work with the same bail bond agent again and again.

The bail bond agency will give the bounty hunter all of the information on the person who’s skipped bail, including contact information. From there it’s the bounty hunter’s job to track them down.

How Does The Capture Usually Go?

In a word? Uneventful. Bounty hunting is usually about simply finding the person, not running through alleys and across rooftops. Once the person is found, they almost always go with the bounty hunter without incident.

What if it doesn’t go so smoothly? Oh boy, watch out! Bounty hunters have a scary amount of powers that have been upheld by courts again and again. That’s because, by entering into a contract with a bail bond agent (and by extension a bounty hunter), the person out on bail has placed themselves in the custody of the agent and bounty hunter. That means that, in most cases, bounty hunters can cross state lines to bring the “skip” (accused person out on a jail bond) back. They can enter the skip’s place of residence without a warrant, and don’t have to read Miranda rights. Evidence they obtain, even if done so illegally, might be submitted in court. Once the skip is in custody, they can take them back across state lines without extradition proceedings and return them to the court that issued bail.

Can A Bondsman and Bounty Hunter Be The Same Person?

Most states will allow a bail bondsman to be a bounty hunter as well. If the bondsman has time, they can track down the person who has skipped bail and thereby avoid paying someone else. This is especially viable if the bail bond agent believes they know exactly where there accused is, whether that be their own home or that of a relative.

The primary reason a bail agent will call a bounty hunter is that they are simply too busy to go after the bail skipper. Sticking around the office and helping other people post bail is usually more lucrative than going after a single person. Of course, the amount of money involved in the bail has a lot to do with it. The level of danger might also figure into a bail bond agent’s decision. Going after someone who was arrested for drunk driving is a much more pleasant idea than heading after a guy who was arrested for armed robbery and aggravated assault.

What Does It Take To Be A Bounty Hunter?

Most states require bounty hunters to take classes and get a license in order to track people down and bring them in legally. Interestingly, Michigan does not require any license in order to become a bounty hunter. Even though you don’t have to get a license, we’d seriously suggest taking classes. Not doing so could get you into a whole lot of legal trouble.

In short, we never want to call a bounty hunter, but sometimes it’s necessary. We’re sure we won’t have to call one in regards to you or your loved one who’s seeking bail money. Want to learn more about bail bonds and getting out of jail. Click here!