When we think of the “bounty hunter”, we may think about those posters from spaghetti western movies that offered rewards to find and capture a criminal “dead or alive”. In those movies, the person that had a bounty on their head was wanted by the sheriff and hired someone like Clint Eastwood to find and bring back the fugitive to justice. It was his job as the bounty hunter to capture and return the fugitive to the legal authorities for a sack of gold coins. Although the days of hang him high justice of the wild west are long gone, the use of the bounty hunter is still very much a part of our legal system today.
One such reality show on television “Dog the Bounty Hunter” has renewed interest in this hazardous occupation. In that show, Duane “Dog” Chapman is a real-life bounty hunter in Hawaii hired to track down and capture fugitives for a price. Dog is a staff member of a bail bond agency that actually helps those accused of a crime to avoid spending time in jail by helping them post bail. The problem occurs when someone “jumps” or skips bail which means they did not show up in court as ordered. It then becomes the job of the bounty hunter Dog to find and bring the accused back to jail or else the bail bonds agency must forfeit the money they posted to the court. Although, Chapman’s show is a “reality show” and we all know how “real” that is. If a bail bond agency had to send a bounty hunter out, as often as Dog goes, the bondsman would be out of business in a very short time!
The legal basis of bounty hunting is found in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution written by our founding fathers. This amendment guarantees citizens the legal right to bail set by the criminal justice system. A bail bondsman is a person that works for or represents a surety company that provides the money for the bond set by the courts. A person charged and arrested can either post the entire bail or go through a bondsman who charges a fee which is usually a certain percentage of the bail https://reelammunition.com/product/338-lapua-magnum-270gr-500-rounds/ amount as allowed by law. Posting or making bail allows the defendant to remain free with the stipulation that they abide by all the conditions of bail which can sometimes include not physically leaving the geographic jurisdiction of the courts or even the country if they are considered a flight risk. The bail amount is set as a guarantee on behalf of the defendant that he or she will appear at all hearings and court dates related to the crime they are accused of.
The bail amount set by the courts depends on the crime, prior arrests, criminal history and circumstances of the arrest according to a schedule set by the county where the crime is committed. The judge setting the bail will use this schedule as a guide but has considerable discretion in setting the bail amount. For instance in the State of California, each County has set its own bail schedule based on the offense.
Bounty hunters are often employed by bail bonds companies because it is their liability if the defendant that they are posting bail for does not comply with court orders. It is in the best interest of the bail bondsman to capture or “recover” the fugitive because they must forfeit the amount of the bond instead of getting it back and collecting their fee. Hence, the reason bounty hunters are often referred to as bail fugitive recovery agents. In the State of California, bounty hunters must be certified as well as licensed by the Department of Insurance.