A Bounty Hunter and a Bail Agent Are the Same, Right?
You may have heard the term Bail Agent, or have seen the bright neon signs across the street from any city jail. Perhaps you’ve heard of a Fugitive Recovery Person like “Dog the Bounty Hunter” on television? Before I explain what they do, it’s important to know that these two job titles encompass very different duties.
Pictured: Bondsman Tonya Rynerson with Bounty Hunter Zeke Unger
Although Bail Agents, more commonly called a Bondsmen, and Fugitive Recovery Agents work very closely together at times, and are often confused as being one and the same. But by definition, they are very different indeed. In California, you must be licensed and trained specifically for the job of Bail Agent and as such, you can pick up your own “skips” or those who fail to appear in court. So let’s talk a about their big differences in their jobs:
Fugitive Recovery Agents, also known as, “Bounty Hunters” or “Skip Tracers” typically track down criminal defendants who have otherwise “skipped bail.” These defendants have failed to appear in front of a judge for their court dates and must be located. A Fugitive Recovery Agent is provided written authorization pursuant to the laws in their state. They are hired specifically to locate, arrest and detain defendants and are tactically trained in techniques to do so. In many situations, Bounty Hunters must use surprise entry to gain access to a home or dwelling to make an arrest. This can sometimes lead to physical resistance by the defendant, so at times violence may be associated with being a Fugitive Recovery Agent. This is why Fugitive Recovery Agents are asked to train and test with firearms, handcuffs, tasers, mace and other powerful weapons. They may wear ballistic/Kevlar vests for protection during actual arrests. Some Bounty Hunters may have a previous background in law enforcement. It definitely takes “the right stuff” to do this job safely and correctly.
The job of a Licensed Bail Agent also known as, “Bail Bondsman” or “Bail Bond Agent” includes writing contracts, “posting bail” for the release of a defendant from jail and the administration of other important forms. A Bail Bond Agent by definition transacts bail for a fee (in California its 10%) and must be licensed by the state’s department of insurance. They may be familiar with the workings of the local criminal courts and other legal regulations. Upon authorization of the bail bond by a co-signer, (indemnitor), family member or the defendant him/herself, the defendant is released and the bail bond is accepted from the court, in lieu of the entire bail amount. The licensed Bail Agent guarantees to indemnify the surety company (insurance company) for any forfeiture or related costs for the bond should the defendant fail to make their scheduled court appearance. A Licensed Bail Bondsman may go to a jail with bail bond paperwork to release a defendant. However, they typically don’t go out “searching for” and “arresting” a defendant for not showing up for their court appearances. Bail Agents don’t typically have to carry weapons or wear Kevlar vests while administrating bail bonds from their offices. And for some Bail Agents, that may be a huge relief.
The significant difference between the two professions are: Bail Agents are called and work to help things “go smoothly” by insuring the defendant is released from jail when bail is made. Fugitive Recovery Agents are called in when things “don’t go smoothly” and move in to make the arrest and bring the defendant back to jail. Simply put, the bail bondsman gets people out of jail; a bounty hunter puts them back in jail.
Learn more about Los Angeles Bounty Hunting.