A bounty hunter
for a monetary reward
). Other names, mainly used in the United States
, include bail agent
, bail enforcement agent
, bail officer
, fugitive recovery agent
, fugitive recovery officer
and bail fugitive recovery specialist
Laws in the U.S.
In the United States
legal system, the 1872 U.S. Supreme Court
case Taylor v. Taintor,
16 Wall (83 U.S. 366, 21 L.Ed. 287), is cited as having established that the person into whose custody an accused is remanded as part of the accused's bail
has sweeping rights to recover that person (although this may have been accurate at the time the decision was reached, the portion cited was obiter dicta
and has no binding precedential value). Most bounty hunters are employed by a bail bondsman
: the bounty hunter is paid a portion of the bail the fugitive initially paid. If the fugitive eludes bail, the bondsman, not the bounty hunter, is responsible for the remainder of the fugitive's bail.
This is a way of ensuring his clients arrive at trial. In the United States, bounty hunters catch an estimated 31,500 bail jumpers per year, about 90% of people who jump bail.
Bounty hunters are also sometimes known as "bail enforcement agents" or "fugitive recovery agents," which are the preferred industry and polite terms, but in common speech (and language), they are still called "bounty hunters".
Bounty hunters are sometimes called "skiptracers," but this usage can be misleading. While bounty hunters are often skiptracers as well, skiptracing generally refers to the process of searching for an individual through less direct methods than active pursuit and apprehension, such as private investigators or debt collectors. Skiptracing can also refer to searches related to a civil matter and does not always imply criminal conduct on the part of the individual being traced.
In the United States of America, bounty hunters have varying levels of authority in their duties with regard to their targets depending on which states they operate in. As opined in Taylor v. Taintor, and barring restrictions applicable state by state, a bounty hunter can enter the fugitive's private property without a warrant in order to execute a re-arrest. In some states, bounty hunters do not undergo any formal training, and are generally unlicensed, only requiring sanction from a bail bondsman to operate. In other states, however, they are held to varying standards of training and licensure. In California, bounty hunters must undergo a background check and complete various courses that satisfy the penal code 1299 requirements.
In most states they are prohibited from carrying firearms without proper permits. Louisiana requires bounty hunters to wear clothing identifying them as such.
In Kentucky, bounty hunting is generally not allowed because the state does not have a system of bail bondsmen, and releases bailed suspects through the state's Pretrial Services division of the courts, thus there is no bondsman with the right to apprehend the fugitive. Generally, only fugitives who have fled bail on federal charges from another state where bounty hunting is legal are allowed to be hunted in Kentucky.
In Texas, every bounty hunter is required to be a peace officer, Level III (armed) security officer, or a private investigator.
State legal requirements are often imposed on out-of-state bounty hunters, meaning a suspect could temporarily escape re-arrest by entering a state in which the bail agent has limited or no jurisdiction.
International laws and legal protection
Bounty hunters can run into serious legal problems if they try to get fugitives from other countries. Laws in nearly all countries outside the U.S., which do not permit bounty hunting, would label the re-arrest of any fugitive "kidnapping
" or the bail agent may incur the punishments of some other serious crime. Noted bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman
(star of the TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter
) was arrested and deported from Mexico
after he apprehended the multi-millionaire rapist and fugitive Andrew Luster
. Chapman was later himself declared a fugitive by a Mexican prosecutor and was subsequently arrested in the United States to be extradited back to Mexico even though under Mexico's citizen arrest law, Dog and his crew acted under proper policy and broke no other Mexican laws. Daniel Kear
pursued and apprehended Sidney Jaffe
at a residence in Canada
. Kear was extradited to Canada, and convicted of kidnapping.
While the United States Government generally allows the activities of bounty hunters in the United States, the government is not as tolerant of these activities when they cause problems with other sovereign
Several bounty hunters have also been arrested for killing a fugitive or apprehending the wrong person, mistaking them for a fugitive. Unlike police officers, they have no legal protections against injuries to non-fugitives and few legal protections against injuries to their targets.
In a Texas case, bounty hunters Richard James
and his partner DG Pearson were arrested in 2001 for felony charges during an arrest. The charges were levied by the fugitive and his family, but were later dismissed against the hunters after the fugitive's wife shot a deputy sheriff in another arrest attempt of the fugitive by the county sheriff's department. The hunters sued the fugitive and family, winning the civil suit for malicious prosecution with a judgment amount of 1.5 million dollars.
, bounty hunters are commonly depicted as loners, cynical yet romantic. The first depiction of the occupation in film was Andre de Toth
's The Bounty Hunter
in 1954 starring Randolph Scott
. Steve McQueen
played bounty hunter Josh Randall in the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive
for three seasons, making him a well known star The series was followed many years later by a film sequel—Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)
—in which Rutger Hauer
played Nick Randall, Josh Randall’s grandson. McQueen's final film was The Hunter
a biography of modern day bounty hunter Ralph Thorsen
. The Sergio Leone
film For a Few Dollars More
with Clint Eastwood
was filmed in 1965 with a similar opening to DeToth's film. (Unlike bounty hunters of the present day, however, Leone's film presented its protagonists as "bounty killers", who had no need to bring in fugitives alive to receive the bounties.) Another excellent film example of "bounty killers" is The Great Silence
, a 1968 spaghetti western
by Sergio Corbucci
In October 2005, the notable bounty hunter Domino Harvey was portrayed by Keira Knightley in the marginally successful motion picture Domino. Although the film was only loosely based on the life of Domino Harvey, making it partially fictitious, it helped to illustrate the rising popularity of bounty hunters in modern U.S. culture.
This tradition has been adopted by several action-oriented vehicles of science fiction (inspired by Westerns), with fictional characters like Boba and Jango Fett, Rally Vincent, Rick Deckard, Samus Aran, and several fictional characters in Cowboy Bebop. Typically, they are shown to work for powerful criminal figures with greater frequency than for the proper authorities. Such characters have appeared in books, TV series, movies, comics, and games from around the world.
In the 2002 action movie/comedy movie, All About the Benjamins Ice cube played as Bucum who was a a low paid bounty hunter trying to open his own firm.
Notable bounty hunters
- Domino Harvey
- Duane "Dog" Chapman Star of reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter
- Sandra Scott featured in Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter, a reality TV show on WE channel.
- Jerome Young, professional wrestler known by the name New Jack
- Man with No Name of the Dollars Trilogy
- Boba Fett, Jango, Zuckuss, 4-LOM, Dengar, Bossk and IG-88, from Star Wars
- Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine from the Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop.
- Samus Aran from Nintendo's Metroid Series.
- Lockdown, a bounty hunter who is mainly hired by the Decepticons.
- "Dr. D" David Schultz, professional wrestler notable for slapping 20/20 reporter John Stossel
- Calo Nord from the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic video game.
- Rick Deckard from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the film Blade Runner.
- Jonah Hex, an old west character from DC Comics.
- Kakuzu, a member of Akatsuki which is a fictional organization of criminals in Naruto.