A bounty hunter is a person who apprehends fugitives in exchange for payment. If a defendant fails to show up for a court appearance, he is then considered a fugitive and, if his bail was provided by a bail bond company, it will often hire a someone to bring the fugitive back. The term "fugitive recovery agent" is often preferred by those in the industry because the more common term conjures up images of the old west with its "dead or alive posters" and rewards offered in exchange for the fugitive. A fugitive recovery agent works for a percentage of the bail amount, not a reward.
A career as a fugitive recovery agent is not to be taken lightly. Individuals cannot enter into this profession without research and training. In order to become a bounty hunter, a person must have knowledge of how the bail bonds industry works and must be proficient in other skills, such as detecting deceit, surveillance, skip tracing, and negotiation. This person must also know how to research and investigate missing persons, be able to access and analyze phone records of the fugitive's friends and family, and know how to dig into the fugitive's past and find all past residences. He will need to learn the fugitive's habits, vices, friends, enemies and hangouts.
A career in this field can be quite lucrative. A bounty hunter can only apprehend those fugitives who have skipped bail, and payment is typically 10% of the bail amount. This can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for a busy agent.
In the US, different states have different restrictions on people who work in this field. For example, in certain states, a fugitive recovery agent cannot carry a firearm. In others, firearms are allowed but a background check is required; still other states require visible identification, such as that written on the back of a t-shirt or jacket. Unlike a police officer, the agent doesn't need a warrant to apprehend a fugitive and can enter private property. He is also allowed to cross state lines without an extradition treaty.
People who think that this job might be the one for them should remember that every fugitive is considered armed and dangerous. This means that their lives are frequently in danger, especially if they are doing the apprehending in a state that doesn't allow the use of firearms. In addition, there's always the chance that the fugitive will seek revenge once his jail term has ended. If this is something that a person wants to pursue, a local bail bond agency is likely to be able to provide more information.