Bounty hunters, or bail enforcement agents, earn a living tracking, capturing and delivering fugitives to police authorities. Bounty hunters walk a fine line when it comes to their legal authority, as they can legally perform tasks normally reserved for police officers in specific situations. Unlike police officers, bounty hunters do not face criminals in groups with plentiful backup and dispatcher coordination. Bounty hunters have to be fully equipped and prepared to take down some of the nation's most dangerous and desperate criminals single-handedly.
Personal protective gear is a must for all bounty hunters. Fugitives on the run can range from the most harmless of corporate criminals to the most vicious serial killers, and bounty hunters must always be prepared for the unexpected. Bail enforcement agents should equip themselves with a wide range of police-grade gear, including bullet-proof vests, steel-toed boots, eye protection, gloves and additional body armor. It can be helpful to carry night-vision goggles for late-night extractions.
Fugitives travel long distances to escape the law, possibly crossing multiple state lines before an arrest warrant is issued. Long-distance travel is a large part of a bounty hunter's job, and all bounty hunters need a vehicle that can thrive in virtually any condition. Television reality show star Dog the Bounty Hunter casts an impressive shadow on his chopper motorcycle, but a vehicle like that can become useless in a blizzard or rain storm, on steep mountain grades or in an off-road pursuit. A four-wheel-drive, off-road capable vehicle with a reputation for long life and reliability is the best option for a professional.
Tracking fugitives in the 21st century is just as much an exercise in digital investigation as it is in brute-force extraction. Bounty hunters need mobile access to the Internet at any time to search public records, news sources and police databases to locate fugitives. Bounty hunters can find clues on fugitives' whereabouts through rental records, traffic tickets, vehicle registrations and just about anything that police can use to track individuals across the country.
The main job of a bail enforcement agent is to secure and deliver fugitives to police authorities, after which they collect a “bounty” — a kind of fugitive finder's fee. To do this, bounty hunters must be equipped with handcuffs, zip-ties and special restraints or escape-proof areas in their vehicles. Finding a criminal is only the first step; actually getting him from his hiding place to a police station can be a greater challenge.
Bounty hunters must carry a range of weapons, just like law-enforcement officers do. Bounty hunters can use non-lethal options such as pepper spray, Taser guns and non-lethal projectiles to stun and incapacitate targets without incurring personal liability. A bounty hunter can also choose to carry deadly weapons, such as firearms and knives. This is the most sensitive and personally dangerous decision in a bounty-hunter's job. If a bounty hunter uses a deadly weapon in an inappropriate manner, he can quickly find himself on the other side of the law. Bounty hunters carrying deadly weapons should be intimately familiar with the laws of self-defense and permissible use of deadly weapons by bounty hunters in each state they enter.