Bounty Hunters: What They Really Are And Why They're Associated With Bail Bonds

The term bounty hunter conjures up images of rough, violent people who deal with hardened criminals. This is the picture painted by a great deal of popular media, from old spaghetti westerns to science fiction epics. However, as is the case with most media images, the reality of bounty hunters and their job is much less dramatic than the fantasy.

The truth is that bounty hunters perform a necessary, and often dull, job that the court system relies heavily upon to function. Without them, the entire trial and bail system would function much less effectively and at greater taxpayer cost. To understand why this is the case, it's important to understand how bail works.

What Is a Bail Bond?

When a person is held for trial, they are often given the opportunity to post bail. Basically, bail is a financial incentive, supplied by the accused, to ensure that they will appear in court on their appointed date. For example, a person accused of a robbery might be required to pay $25,000 to the court in bail. When they show up at trial, this money is refunded. If they don't show up, that money is forfeit.

However, most people find themselves in a situation where they don't have enough money to cover the bail amount by themselves.That's because bail can range anywhere from $3,000 for minor marijuana possession to $2,000,000 or more. In higher value cases, there's no way that the accused could hope to make a bail payment on their own.

A bail bond is an agreement by an independent organization to ensure that the accused will show up in court. These are purchased by the accused when they cannot cover the cost of their bail--typically costing 10 percent of the bail amount. If the accused shows in court, there is no problem. If they don't, the bond company can be liable for the bail payment and are also legally obligated to help find the accused person.

The Job Of Bounty Hunters

This is where bounty hunters come in. Often, the bond company will set a bounty on the person who did not show up for court. This is how they protect their business from significant losses when people fail to appear. The hunters find the accused, return them to the prison, and collect the bounty from the bondsmen.

However, laws are important to any society. Bounty hunters are not the gun-toting, lawless frontiersmen of the past. A more accurate comparison would be to consider them a type of independent private investigator. However, they are often required to restrain the criminal in order to ensure transport--which adds an element of danger to the profession. They are also legally able to pursue a bounty across state lines, unlike local and state police forces.

How Bounty Hunters Help The System

Bail is a significant money saving device that helps protect millions of tax dollars every year. In simple terms, the authorities are not required to hold nearly as many people in prison prior to their trial. With cost estimates as high as $234 per day in some counties, not to mention the need to increase prison facility capacity, keeping people out of prison before their trial is absolutely necessary.

Also, if bounty hunters did not exist, state and local authorities would be forced to track criminals that did not show up at trial. This would result in the need for a larger police force--a major burden on communities. That's why the current legal system is heavily dependent on bounty hunters to function effectively and economically.

Bounty hunters are a misunderstood, yet necessary, piece of the criminal justice puzzle. While it may seem that they live an odd, shadowy life, their service to the community and their contributions to a safe life for everyone are undeniable. For more information about bail bonds and bounty hunters, you can check out this site