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A bounty hunter captures fugitives for a monetary reward (bounty). Other names, mainly used in the United States, include, bail enforcement agent, fugitive recovery agent, and bail fugitive investigator. Other countries do not have bounty hunters; they use standard law enforcement agencies to recover suspects.

Bounty hunting, and bounty hunters, are legal in only two nations: the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.[1]


Laws in the U.S.

In the United States legal system, the 1873 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 dictum and has no binding precedential value). Most bounty hunters are employed by bail bondsmen: the bounty hunter is paid about 10% 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 claim to catch 31,500 bail jumpers per year, about 90% of people who jump bail.[2] Bounty hunters are also sometimes known as "bail enforcement agents" or "fugitive recovery agents," which are the preferred industry terms.

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. They cannot, however, enter the property of anyone other than the fugitive without a warrant or the owner's permission.

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 license. In California, bounty hunters must undergo a background check and complete various courses that satisfy the penal code 1299 requirements.[3] In most states they are prohibited from carrying firearms without proper permits. Louisiana requires bounty hunters to wear clothing identifying them as such.[4]

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.[4] In Texas, every bounty hunter is required to be a peace officer, Level III (armed) security officer, or a private investigator.[5]

State legal requirements are often imposed on out-of-state bounty hunters, meaning a suspect could temporarily escape rearrest 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. 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 nations.[6]

Noted bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman (star of the TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter) was arrested in Mexico after he apprehended the multi-millionaire rapist and fugitive Andrew Luster. Chapman was subsequently released and returned to the U.S.[2] 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. Chapman maintains that under Mexico's citizen arrest law, he and his crew acted under proper policy.

Daniel Kear pursued and apprehended Sidney Jaffe at a residence in Canada and returned him to Florida to face trial. Kear was extradited to Canada in 1983, and convicted of kidnapping.[6]

Several bounty hunters have also been arrested for killing the fugitive or apprehending the wrong individuals, mistaking innocent people for fugitives.[7]

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.

Bounty hunting in Rhodesia

During the Rhodesian Bush War, cattle rustling reached epidemic proportions in the late 1970s. This was part of a two-fold strategy of the guerrillas against the white minority government in Salisbury. First, it led to starvation in the Tribal Trust Lands, secondly it negatively affected the economy of Rhodesia. Since the Army and the British South Africa Police were overstretched on three fronts, soon mercenaries were hired to confront the rustlers. They were called Range Detectives, and most of them were Vietnam veterans, some of them members of The Crippled Eagles. Payment was roughly 7 Rhodesian dollars a day, and a 750 Rhodesian dollars bonus for each rustler caught.[8]

In fiction

In Westerns, 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 star.[9] 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 "Papa" Thorsen.

In the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the character Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who is tasked with "retiring" escaped androids. In the film adaptation, which was retitled Blade Runner, the bounty hunters are called blade runners.

The Sergio Leone film For a Few Dollars More with Clint Eastwood was filmed in 1965 with a similar opening to de Toth's film.

In the 1988 film Midnight Run, Robert de Niro plays a modern day bounty hunter, who is trying to bring in a mob accountant played by Charles Grodin.

In 2005, the real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey was portrayed by Keira Knightley in the film Domino. Although the film was only loosely based on the life of Harvey, making it partially fictitious, it helped to illustrate the rising popularity of bounty hunters in modern U.S. culture.[citation needed]

This tradition has been adopted by several action-oriented vehicles of science fiction (inspired by Westerns), with characters like Boba Fett, Jango Fett, IG-88, Zam Wesell, and Cad Bane from the Star Wars franchise, Jubal Early from the Firefly franchise, Rally Vincent, Rick Deckard, Samus Aran from the Metroid video game series, and several 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 Stephanie Plum novels, written by Janet Evanovich, the main character is a bounty hunter described as "incredibly average and yet heroic if necessary" by the author. There are 15 full length novels and 4 holiday edition novellas. Each book revolves around Stephanie trying to catch her main bounty while destroying cars, getting help from love interests, and dealing with her abnormal family.

In the thriller, Scarecrow, written by Matthew Reilly, the main character of the book, Schofield, is pursued by bounty hunters, such as: the "Intercontinental Guards, Unit 88" or "IG-88", the "Ice Queen", the "Zulu", "the Hungarian", and the "Skorpions" which were named after their main weapon, the VZ-61 Skorpions. Along with these, the main character is fiercely protected by Aloysius Knight (pronounced allo-wishus), or the "Black Knight", who is himself a bounty hunter.

In the manga Black Cat, bounty hunters are called "Sweepers" and operate differently than their real-life counterparts. For example, they walk into bars, restaurants or any other establishment that posts wanted posters. They take these posters, which dictates that they are now entitled to that criminal and the subsequent reward money. Upon capturing said criminal, they hand them over to the authorities and receive the money in full.

In the 2002 action/comedy film All About the Benjamins, Ice Cube played Bucum, a lowpaid bounty hunter trying to open his own firm.

In the 2009 Telugu film Ek Niranjan the lead character played by Prabhas is a bounty hunter.

In the video game Need for Speed: Carbon, former Sgt. Cross (from Need for Speed: Most Wanted) returns as a bounty hunter to arrest the player.

Notable bounty hunters


Notable bounty hunters


Boba Fett, one of the most popular fictional bounty hunters[11]

. Elliot Belt from the Lucky Luke TV series

See also


  1. ^ NY Times on Commercial Bail Bonding -- US and Philippines are alone in the world
  2. ^ a b Rachel Clarke (June 19, 2003). "Above the law: US bounty hunters". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  3. ^ "Licensing Requirements for Agents.".,California bail laws web page. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  4. ^ a b Jonathan Drimmer. "Bounty Hunter laws". Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  5. ^ "Bounty Hunter Information". Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  6. ^ a b Russell Covey (July 10, 2003). "The Perils of Bounty hunting". Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  7. ^ Deb Farris. "Bounty Hunters Arrested for Kidnapping". KAKE TV. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  8. ^ Earp Jr., Wyatt: Pros at work: Bounty hunting in Africa, Soldiers of Fortune Magazine, March, 1977
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Montandon, Mac (2008). Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was. pp. 55. ISBN 9780306815287. 
  12. ^

External links


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