Bounty Hunters – Role of Bail Recovery Agents in Bail Bonds

Bounty hunters play a key role in the bail bonds industry. They assist bail bondsmen when someone jumps bail. It’s important to understand the power and limitations that bounty hunters have, how they differ from bail bondsmen, and what you can expect if a bounty hunter is looking to apprehend you.

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What is a bounty hunter and what do they do?

A bounty hunter is hired by a bail bondsman to locate and arrest a person who does not show to court as agreed in their bail bond agreement. Bounty hunters are sometimes referred to as bail recovery agents. When a person doesn’t show to court, the bail bondsman is responsible for the full bail bond amount.

A bounty hunter must wait for the bail bondsman to give the order before being able to go after any individual. It feels like a western movie, and while some states have strict rules and licensing requirements to become a bounty hunter, the basics remain wild in nature.

The bounty hunter usually starts by talking with family and friends to determine where the individual may be. Bounty hunters stakeout at relevant locations in hope of seeing the criminal or fugitive. Bounty hunters are allowed to enter the house of the fugitive to make the arrest but are not allowed to enter any other homes without a warrant. A bounty hunter may spend anywhere from a few hours to weeks or months trying to locate the fugitive.

A bounty hunter’s salary or rate for hire is usually 10% of the bail bond, but can be much higher if the person is known to be difficult to locate. Upon arrest, the bounty hunter returns the fugitive to the bail bondsman and/or court or jail.

Is a bail bondsman the same as a bounty hunter?

No, a bail bondsman hires the bounty hunter to locate and arrest the criminal/fugitive. It’s possible that a bail bonds business has its own bounty hunter on staff, but typically these two jobs function separately, but in close partnership.

The bail bondsman’s goal is to never have to use a bounty hunter. The goal for bail bonds companies is to charge their 10% fee and see the individual show up in court. When a person doesn’t show to court, it creates a risk for the bondsman where they need to pay out the full bail bond. The bounty hunter charges the bail bondsman 10% to locate the fugitive. 9 out of 10 fugitives are located and arrested.

When does a bounty hunter come after me?

Normally, a bounty hunter is not activated as long as you show up to court on your court date. It’s business as usual between you and the bail bondsman if you make your court dates – the bondsman makes 10% and you are free until your trial.

If you do not show to court and don’t have a valid reason and pre-arranged plan with the bondsman and court, you risk being chased down by a bounty hunter. No bail bondsman is going to accept their full loss on the bail bond, and since they only need to pay 10% to the bounty hunter, there is very little reason for them to allow you to roam free as a fugitive. Show up to court and avoid the risk and further legal complications.

Please note that there are other reasons a “bounty hunter” may be activated BEFORE you miss court. The most common reason is that the co-signer on the bail application no longer feels safe about the defendant showing up in court. That person can pay a recovery fee to the bondsman to have the defendant re-arrested early, therefore terminating their obligation to the bondsman once the defendant is captured.

It doesn’t mean that the defendant is going to be surrendered. It means that the defendant will most likely be placed somewhere in the custody of the bail bondsman where he can have the opportunity to get a different co-signer. If a new co-signer can’t be found, surrender will occur.

It can be extremely stressful when you or your loved one ends up in jail, and not knowing how bail bonds work can add on an extra element of frustration. We have created a simple guide to help you understand exactly how bail works, both at the national level and within your state.

To familiarize yourself with bail bonds and related information, please browse through the frequently asked questions below.

Can I get my bail money back?

How much does bail cost for different crimes?

When you post bail, what happens to the money?

Can I get my 10% fee back?

Our guide on bail bonds amounts is comprehensive, showing bail amounts you may see for various charges, both felonies and misdemeanors. How much bail is set to can vary based on jurisdiction, criminal history, and input from the judge. Bail Bonds Network's research focuses on all these factors to help you prepare.
Do you have a loved one who needs to be bailed out of jail but is located in another state? Learn how to bail someone out from another state. Our expertly written guide will help you understand how you can use a bail bondsman to work across state lines via transfer bonds and other means to ensure your loved one is bailed out quickly even if they were arrested in a different state from where you live.
Before you co-sign on a bail bond, you should make yourself aware of what it means to be a cosigner, as well as the liabilities, risk, and requirements that come with co-signing. Our bail experts have compiled everything you need to know, dealing with important items like who can cosign, what application requirements are necessary, how bail forfeiture can impact you, how long you are tied to the bail bond, and when your collateral will finally be freed.

A bounty hunter is hired by a bail bondsman to locate and arrest a person who does not show to court as agreed in their bail bond agreement. Bounty hunters are sometimes referred to as bail recovery agents.

What does a bounty hunter do?

Is a bail bondsman the same as a bounty hunter?

When does a bounty hunter come after me?

We are the trusted source for bail bonds, as well as financial help and guidance when you cannot afford to pay for the bail bond fee. Every day, we are contacted by great people who simply want to get their loved one out of jail. Read our guide to learn more about all your options, including bail emergency loans, and bail charities who often bail out low income individuals for free.

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Adi Dzebic
MBA, Research & Marketing
Owner of Bail Bonds Network, specializing in quality content research, analyzing bail bondsmen that are featured on our website, and general content contributions that are verified by our expert panel.
Matt C. Pinsker
Criminal Defense Attorney

An award-winning criminal defense attorney. He previously served as a state and federal prosecutor and magistrate, making his content contributions extremely relevant on legal and bail related topics.

Fred Shanks
Licensed Bail Bondsman
Fred Shanks is a licensed bail bondsman and the owner of Apex Bail Bonds. Fred is our bail expert who reviews and contributes to our content to ensure we have accurate and complete bail information.
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Finance / Lending Specialist
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