When someone who is released from prison on bail fails to return to a scheduled court date, they officially are considered a fugitive from the law. A fugitive agent, also known as a bounty hunter, bail recovery agent or a fugitive recovery agent, uses a variety of tactics to locate this fugitive in order to collect reward money. This job demands great attention and patience, because of the inherent danger of the work.
The first thing a fugitive agent does is researches the local laws on apprehending fugitives. Laws about tracking criminals can vary widely from country to country. For example, only the United States and the Philippines allow private citizens to practice this job legally. In addition, each state in the United States has different requirements and laws about how a citizen can apprehend a fugitive.
The biggest discrepancy in fugitive agent regulations usually is licensing. Bail enforcement certification is specific for a particular state, so a fugitive agent can track and apprehend suspects only in those states in which he or she is licensed. The certification involves an examination about local laws and practices for apprehending fugitives, and it certifies that the person understands the responsibilities of the job.
The actual job of a fugitive agent is much less exciting than many expect. Research is the biggest thing a fugitive agent does, because once an agent chooses a fugitive to pursue, he or she must read police reports and interview associates in order to hypothesize about where the fugitive could be. Another large part of the job is simply waiting during stakeouts to see whether the criminal in question arrives where they are suspected to be hiding.
Only a very small portion of the job involves actually apprehending a suspect. No matter whether the agent is tracking a murderer or a misdemeanor thief, a fugitive recovery agent usually does not attempt to apprehend a suspect alone because of the danger involved. Many fugitive agents have a trained team that surrounds buildings and helps safely capture subjects and prevent their escape. After a suspect is apprehended, it is the job of the fugitive agent to bring the person to the proper authorities for an actual arrest and booking. The fugitive agent also must work with law enforcement officials to receive the reward and usually must fill out a great deal of paperwork in order to certify his or her claim to the money before collecting it.