Learn How to be a Bounty Hunter

What is a Bounty Hunter?

The bounty hunting profession stems from the bail system established by the British government in 1679. At that time, the British government passed the Habeas Corpus Act which guaranteed that an accused person could be set free from jail on monetary funds or bail. Previously, bail was a person assigned to a criminal as a custodian to be hung if the accused escaped. In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Taylor v. Taintor case that bounty hunters to capture and arrest fugitives for a monetary award. This marked the beginning of bounty hunting in the U.S.

Bounty hunters are most often known for their presence in the Wild West where they were frequently utilized. Local sheriffs posted signs offering monetary rewards for the capture of accused suspects. Many of these signs famously read “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Consequently, bounty hunting became a viable alternative to capturing criminals since sheriffs couldn’t chase criminals though multiple counties or states.

Today, bounty hunters, skip tracers or bail enforcement officers, as they are also known, are hired by bail bondsmen to locate and capture fugitives for as much as 10% of the original bail.

Why become a bounty hunter?

If you become a bounty hunter you can earn a considerable amount of money. Although the exact amount varies depending on the number of captures and their bail amounts, a bounty hunter’s yearly income can range from as little as $25,000 to as much as $80,000 or more.

The income earned from bounty hunting is determined solely by the number of suspects you can capture and return to the appropriate jail. In other words, you are only paid if you capture and return the assailant to the appropriate arresting county jail. Still, the percentage of income earned from each capture makes bounty hunting a potentially lucrative profession. For example, Duane Lee “Dog” Chapman, a famous bounty hunter, once earned 10% of 1 million dollars for capturing the heir to the Max Factor fortune, Andrew Luster.

Despite the lucrative income that bounty hunting can offer, the work can be grueling. On a daily basis, you will spend hours talking to the fugitive’s friends, families and victims, researching and staking out various locations. Bounty hunting can occasionally be dangerous. Some fugitives will not willingly return to jail and will fight against capture. As a consequence, most bounty hunters carry a gun.

How Do I Become a Bounty Hunter?

Becoming a bounty hunter generally doesn’t require a formal education, however, the requirements do vary from state to state. In fact, some states do not allow bounty hunters at all. You will want to check local regulations for state-specific requirements, but in most states you are required to be at least 18 years old, must pass a background check and have a license to carry a firearm.

Taking online or certificate classes, though not required, can help you learn the bounty hunting business. The American Institute of Bail offers a state certificate home study course and a 2-day classroom course. Most professional bail enforcement officers would also recommend sharpening your detective and self-defense skills to assist in apprehending suspects.

A college degree is highly recommended for bounty hunters, even though it is not always explicitly asked for in every state. A degree in criminal justice, or a similar field like psychology, sociology, or criminology, can help you to understand the psychological motivations of criminals. It will also give you insight into the U.S. criminal justice system and make you a stronger candidate for bounty hunting jobs compared to people who only meet the minimum educational qualifications.

Lastly, you should also form relationships with bail bondsmen since this is how you will receive most of your bounty hunting assignments. If necessary, perform a few jobs for free to prove that you are reliable. If you capture the suspect, the bail bondsman will most likely hire you again.