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Bounty hunters work in conjunction with bail bondsmen and the court system. The scenario plays out as follows: An individual is arrested for breaking a law. The individual is given the chance to be freed from jail if he or she guarantees to be at court on a certain date by posting a large amount of money. Most people who are arrested do not have these large sums of money on hand, so they enlist the services of a bail bondsman who provides the money to the court. The individual must pay the bondsman a fee—usually 10 to 15 percent of the actual posted bond. If the individual does not show up on the court date, the bondsman can either try to bring the person in or hire a bounty hunter to track the person down. The bounty hunter is paid only if the fugitive is returned to court.
After the bounty hunter is on the case, the main goal is to locate the fugitive as quickly and as safely as possible. Although the time frame varies from state to state and court to court, bail enforcement agents usually have 90 to 180 days at the most to bring back the fugitive. Locating a fugitive requires research, detection, and law enforcement skills. Bounty hunters spend a lot of time tracing paper trails, interviewing people, and sitting in vehicles for hours of surveillance. Bounty hunters can use almost any means possible to rearrest a fugitive, including interviewing people, tracing paper trails, and surveillance. In most states they can enter the homes of fugitives if they believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the fugitive is inside. Sometimes the bounty hunter will interview family members or check the trash at the fugitive's home to find a clue as to where he or she has gone. Most bounty hunters use weapons to protect themselves and to persuade a fugitive to return peacefully, which can add an element of danger to the job. After the fugitive is found, the bounty hunter makes a private arrest of the individual and takes the fugitive back to jail to await trial. Although most bounty hunters rearrest the fugitive themselves, some locate the fugitive and then alert the local law officials to make the actual arrest.
Bounty hunting is not only about tracking people and bringing them back alive, however. Bounty hunting is a business, and like any other business, it must be run efficiently. In order to get work, bail enforcement agents must be able to advertise their services to become part of as many bail bondsmen "networks" as possible. Some bondsmen work with just a select few bounty hunters, while others send out their fugitive recovery requests to large networks of bounty hunters who compete against each other to bring back the fugitive. Because bounty hunters get paid only if they bring the person back, care must be taken to use resources wisely. Someone who spends $1,000 to find a fugitive with a reward for only $750 will not be in business long. Besides monetary resources, many bail enforcement agents have research assistants who work for them. Enforcement agents must be able to manage their employees in these situations. Bounty hunters also often work under contracts with law enforcement or bail bondsmen. They must be able to draw up contracts and be well informed regarding all the legal aspects of those contracts.
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