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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

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Bounty hunters, professionally known as fugitive recovery or bond enforcement agents, track down fugitives who didn't show up in court in exchange for a percentage (usually 10%) of the bail amount. While this can be a lucrative pursuit (an experienced bounty hunter can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 annually[1]) it's also a dangerous one. If you're considering becoming a bounty hunter, here's an overview of what you need to do. Since the laws vary and experience is key, consider this a starting point rather than a comprehensive guide.


  1. Check the laws in your state and country. In the U.S., bounty hunting is backed up by the 1872 Supreme Court case Taylor v. Taintor, but regulations vary from state to state. You might need to undergo a background check or wear clothing identifying you as a bounty hunter. You might also need a permit in order to carry firearms.
    • It's a good idea to research the legal requirements for neighboring states or countries, as you may not be able to follow a suspect there unless you meet those requirements.
    • In most countries other than the U.S., the activities of a bondsman (pledging money or property as bail to secure the appearance of a criminal defendant in court, in exchange for a fee from that defendant) are illegal[2] which eliminates the role a bounty hunter. If you cross international borders in pursuit of a fugitive, your acts as a bounty hunter could get you arrested.
    • Check the state regulations section below for state-specific information.

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  2. Understand the risks involved. Every fugitive is considered armed and dangerous, and in some states, you might not be able to carry firearms. There's also the chance that the fugitive may seek revenge after you turn them in, whether they are convicted or not. At the same time, consider that most violent criminals don't get out on bail, and most fugitives who are caught by bounty hunters don't put up much of a fight.[1]
  3. Sharpen your investigative skills. To find someone who's running from the law, you need to know how to:

  4. Train for safe apprehension and surrender of the fugitive. Military, law enforcement, and/or self defense training will be critical in your ability to do your job as safely as possible.
  5. Obtain clients. Contact a bail bond agency (bondsman) and offer your services. As a bounty hunter, you are self-employed and like any self-employed professional, you must advertise and market your services. If you get an assignment, get a copy of the "bail piece" (which indicates that the person is a fugitive) and, if it's required in your state, a certified copy of the bond so that if you find the fugitive, you can arrest him or her. You will also need a power of attorney, which gives you the authority to arrest the fugitive on behalf of the bail bondsman.[1]
  6. Research your subject thoroughly. Search through databases of addresses, phone number, license plate numbers, and Social Security numbers to figure out where the fugitive might be, then go there. Stake out the area--sometimes this can take hours or days.
    • Look for the "Judas", a person who's been betrayed by the fugitive and might be willing to rat him or her out (perhaps a drug dealer, ex-girlfriend, etc.).[1]
    • Tip motel clerks to call you if the fugitive shows up.
    • Trace the fugitive's phone calls.

  7. When you find the fugitive, use the element of surprise. Many bounty hunters show up in the middle of the night, or pose as a delivery person. Avoid physical confrontation - not only is it safer for you that way, but you have to bring back the fugitive in good shape because jails won't accept them with broken bones or large bruises. Put handcuffs on the suspect and drive him or her to a jail in the county where he or she was originally arrested.[1]
    • If you find the fugitive, you can enter his or her home unannounced, but only after establishing without a doubt that the person lives there.[1]
    • You don't have a to read the fugitive his or her Miranda rights before arresting them.[1]

State Regulations

This list contains links to official government sites about bounty hunting.


  • If you are inexperienced, you might have a hard time convincing an agency to let you pursue a fugitive on their behalf. Ideally, you should find a successful bounty hunter to be your mentor before you go it alone.


  • While the bounty hunter featured in a popular reality show, Dog Chapman, is a felon, he's more of the exception than the rule. Generally felons do not become successful bounty hunters because of licensing or certification requirements. Even if there are no such requirements in a particular state, bail bond agencies are reluctant to work with felons because it creates a greater liability.[3]

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6



Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Become a Bounty Hunter. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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