When a defendant is released from jail on a bail bond, they pay a fee and sign a contract with the bail bond agency, agreeing (among other things) to appear in court. The agency paying the bail amount is essentially investing in their client, guaranteeing adherence to future court orders. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail is forfeited, and the bond agency pays the entire amount of the bond. This is not an ideal situation for the bond agency.
To avoid forfeiting the bond, an agency may hire a bounty hunter to locate the defendant and return them the court system within a specified time period. Often, bounty hunters are already employed by the bail bond agency, but can be contracted through other agencies when in pursuit of a suspect out of the area. Bounty hunters are typically paid a percentage of the bond amount when a fugitive is apprehended and returned into custody.
Bounty hunters have varying levels of authority, depending on each state. Typically, a bounty hunter may enter a fugitive’s private property without a warrant to seize the defendant and return them to custody. But, if the fugitive is staying in a private residence, bounty hunters may not enter without permission of the owner, or obtaining a warrant. When crossing state lines, local laws must be followed when apprehending a fugitive.
If you have seen Dog the Bounty Hunter,the bail bond community’s most popular star, you have seen how physical and violent it could be when locating a fugitive. While most searches are not as thrilling as those depicted in the media, it can be dangerous and disruptive.