The term bounty hunter puts a picture in the minds of most Americans of a cowboy from the wild west days riding a horse with a wanted poster in his saddle bag and a six gun strapped around his waist. In those days, the bounty hunter's job was to bring in a bond skip "DEAD OR ALIVE". In the days of the wild west, the bounty hunter was interested in the collection of finder's fees just like he is today.
A bail bondsmen writes a bail bond on a defendant. The defendant skips out on his bond. The bondsmen must then either locate the defendant or pay the face amount of the bond to the court. This is the situation when a bounty hunter is called. His job is to locate the bond skip and "BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE".
A bounty hunter is almost always an agent for a bails bondsmen. In order to understand how bounty hunting works, an examination of the bail bondsmens's position will be needed. A bail bondsmen writes bonds for defendants charged with a crime in order that they may leave jail pending their hearing and trial. The amount of bail is set by the court. In effect, the bail bondsmen acts like an insurance company in that he guarantees the court that the defendant will show up for his or her trial. In providing such a service, the bail bondsman charges the defendant a fee which is about 10% of the bond.
The bail bondsmen usually works for an insurance agency who underwrites the bond. The bail bondsmen is given "powers of bail" that are worth a certain amount of dollars as far as what amounts and how many bonds he may write. When a defendant fails to show up for his trial or hearing, the bondsman will sooner or later have to pay out the face amount of the bail bond to the court. This varies from one month to two years depending upon the state in which the bail bondsman operates. If the bail bondsmen does not bring in the skip, it is more than just a financial mistake for him. He does not look very good before the court and in the eyes of the insurance underwriter. It is to be bondsmen's advantage to locate the skip, have him apprehended and returned back to the jurisdiction of the court.
At first, bondsmen hope that the bail skip will be picked up by the police. As the time limit for returning the defendant to the court comes closer, the bondsmen starts to feel that the police are not going to pick up the bond skip. At this point, the bondsman is likely to call a bounty hunter and bring back the defendant.
The bondsman works much like an agent for an insurance company. A new bail bond agent will be required to maintain what is called a "buildup fund" in case a bond skip occurs. What the buildup fund is used for is to pay out bonds to the courts in the event of a skip. The forfeiture is called an estreature. The buildup fund is retained from part of the bail bondsmen's commission for writing of the bond. The insurance company will only give the bondsman a limited amount of bail powers until his buildup fund reaches a certain amount and he has a track record of writing good bonds.
The bail bondsman is already in a losing position when he calls in a bounty hunter. The defendant has taken off. On the one hand, he does not want to pay out a large finder's fee. On the other hand, he needs to stay in good graces with his insurance company and does not want to come up with too many losses. At this point, one often wonders about common "bounty fees" charges. Well, they are not cut and dry. Bail bonds can involve large funds. It is not uncommon for a bond to be set by the court for $50,000 if the skip is not brought in, the bail bondsman stands to lose a very large amount of funds. Circumstances often arise for the bondsman in which such forfeitures could put him out of business.
Finder fees for bounty hunters vary according to the amount of the bond and the difficulty of the case involved. A $50,000 bound skip could bring in a finder fee as much as $10,000. Smaller bonds will bring in a finder fee much lower. It is only the most established tracers who are in a position to obtain a retainer fee from a bail bondsman. Most cases are worked strictly on a contingency. This means that the bounty is not paid until the skip is found and rearrested.
Bondsmen will try and obtain some form of collateral on the bond risk. This will vary from deeds to real property from the defendant or his family to car titles. By securing such collateral at the time the bond is made, the bail bondsman reduces his financial risk if the bondee skips out. It is not uncommon for the defendant's parents to post such collateral. In such cases where parents have posted collateral and the defendant skips, the parents themselves might want their son located for fear they might lose their home.
Needless to say, bondsmen are in great need of bounty hunters. They will jump at a chance to find a good one. But the bail bond offices are flooded with every Tom-Dick-and Harry appearing with a good sales pitch stating that they have a bounty hunter service. The majority of such operations have been watching too much television. It seems large number of men are attracted to the profession but misunderstand the experience needed. Bail bond pickups (or re-arrests) can be performed by any 250 lb animal. The real need for the bondsmen is a very good skip tracer. The location of the bond skip is 98% of the success in the case. There are only a handful or professionals who are good enough to perform such a service for bondsmen. Bond skips tend to be the hardest type of skip to locate and without expert trace skills the bounty hunter will just not be successful.
Although there are many reputable professionals in the bail bond business, it does attract seedy characters who act more like criminals than professionals. There are a great deal of bondsmen who seem to have mob or hood type connections. Such figures diminish the reputation of the bail bond industry and cause confusion with law enforcement authorities.
The defendant who skips on his bond can be tracked and subdued anywhere in the United States. At the time he is bailed out by the bail bondsman, he signs away some of his rights which include the right of re-arrest by the bondsman. It is also established by common law that the bondsman can appoint an agent to perform such a re-arrest. The authority under which the bounty hunter and/or bail bondsman operate has been set by case last in the United States. The highest authority under which the bounty hunter operates is from a 1872 Supreme Court decision called Taylor Vs. Taintor. The case states:
(The bondsman or bounty hunter) Whenever they choose to do so may seize him (the fugitive) and deliver him up in their discharge; and if this cannot be done at once may imprison him until it can be done. They may pursue him to another state; may arrest him on the sabbath, and, if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of process. None is needed. It is likened to the arrest by the sheriff of an escaping prisoner.
Although the right of the bail bondsman and/or his agent has been long established by the above court decision and others, it is often misunderstood. It seems even police officers are not privy to the actual law. In 1984, two bounty hunters from Dave Mollison's Freedom Bail Bond offices were arrested in Ohio on kidnapping charges in a pickup attempt. In 1982, Tim Johnson caused an international incident with the United States State department and the government of Canada when he brought a defendant by the name of Jaffie back to the state of Florida from Canada. Johnson stood trial in Canada on kidnapping charges.
The bounty hunter will certainly obtain a copy of the bail agreement from the bail bondsman before he attempts to subdue the defendant. He will also likely obtain a power of attorney from the bail bondsman to act as the bondsman's agent. Most professional bounty hunters also keep in their position a copy of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1872 decision. It is also important for the bounty hunter to have a written agreement with the bail bondsmen detailing his fee before hand.
Bounty hunters can find bond skip cases by checking the civil records indexes in county courthouses. The tracer will always find a number of cases where the courts have filed suit against the bail bondsman and insurance company for a bond forfeiture. In one instance, this author located several dozen cases in less than one half hour's time. Without obtaining assignment to the case, three bond skips were located in two and one half days. The bail bondsman involved in these cases were contacted and a huge finder's fee was obtained. As you can see, you can make money without ever attempting to pick up on a bond skip.
The bounty hunter will obtain his assignments by establishing a relationship with bail bondsmen. Sales calls made at the bail bond offices in your area will help you secure the proper contacts. However, it is important to remember that the romantic aspects of bounty hunting brings a large amount of callers to the bail bond office. You will need to build confidence with the bondsmen before he assigns you to any case. However, once you establish yourself as a professional skip tracer, you should not have much of a problem obtaining assignments. The trick is to get the bondsmen to start using your service in the first place. Once a successful track record is established, he will contact you on all his tracing needs.
One easy way to get bondsmen to start using your service is to perform a few missing persons traces for him free of charge. Just about anyone will give you an assignment to do when there is no fee involved. This gives you a chance to develop the confidence of the bail bondsmen and once he sees that you can really locate missing persons, a flow of fee producing assignments will follow.
Once established, the bounty hunter will be called by various insurance companies. When a bail bondsmen goes under, the liability for his outstanding skips will be placed upon the insurance company. It seems that there are large numbers of individuals who attempt to "go for broke" in the bail bond industry although the insurance companies check out their agents before forking over powers of bail to them. Insurance company offices commonly send out "WANTED PERSONS POSTERS" just like it was done it the days of the old west. It will be helpful to your business to get on the insurance company mailing list to obtain copies of those wanted posters.
Needless to say, bounty hunting is not a soft occupation. It is dangerous work as the tracer's job is to track and subdue hardcore criminals. At times, physical force must be used to bring the skip into custody. The actual tracing process involves one of the hardest kinds of traces there is. The bounty hunter is often dealing with hard criminal elements involved in drugs, stolen merchandise and prostitution. Tracing such persons involve the criminal side of the law unlike most private investigations which deal with the civil side of the law. However, for those daring enough with good skills, huge finder's fees are their reward!
AUTHORITY TO ARREST
1. The authority under which this arrest is being executed is from the United States Supreme Court. Taylor Vs. Taintor, 1872.
2. The above named defendant is wanted in the above styled criminal case.
3. ____________________is acting as the agent for ______________________________in delivering said defendant to the above styled court.
Surety Recovery Agent
BAIL BOND RECOVERY RESOURCES
BAIL BOND RECOVERY AGENY'S SUPPLIES
BAIL BOND RECOVERY BOOKS AND MANUALS
BOOKS AND MANUALS ON LOCATING MISSING PERSONS
BOOKS AND MANUALS ON CONDUCTING THE SURVEILLANCE
PROFESSIONAL HANDCUFFS FOR BAIL ENFORCEMENT AGENTS
PROFESSIONAL ID CARDS
OTHER IMPORTANT LINKS
NEWSGROUP ON BAIL ENFORCEMENT
OF DAVID A. MOLLISON
Professional Bail Bond Recovery Agent
RECOVERY INFORMATION CENTER
A great resource for bail bond recover agents.
WESTERN STATE BAIL RECOVERY ASSOCIATION
Association of bail recovery agents
ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION, INC.
A new association started by David Mollison made up of bail enforcement professionals.
OF BAIL ENFORCEMENT AGENTS
The famous Bob Burton association. Mr. Burton has training courses and seminars on bail enforcement as well as a national network. He is author of Bounty Hunter and Bail Enforcement Agent as well as the video American Bounty Hunter. Check it out!
OTHER WORTHY ARTICLES
BUSTING FOR BUCKS:
AN INTERVIEW WITH A BOUNTY HUNTER
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