A bounty hunter's job involves tracking down fugitives who miss scheduled court appearances and retuning them to authorities in the county where they were charged with a crime. Bounty hunters are officially known as bail enforcement or fugitive recovery agents.
Aspiring bounty hunters must be at least 18 years old in any state, and in some states, the minimum age requirement is 21 years old. Some states require only a high school or equivalent degree, but other states require training and licensing before an applicant can legally work as a bounty hunter. A criminal record may disqualify an applicant from working as a bounty hunter.
Bounty hunters are generally employed or contracted by a bail bondsman. When a person charged with a crime misses a court appearance, it is the bail bondsman's responsibility to return the criminal to justice. The bail bondsman contracts a bounty hunter to protect his interests. If the fugitive is not successfully captured, the bail bondsman stands to lose a great deal of money.
Bounty hunters are usually paid on commission when the fugitive is apprehended and handed over to the authorities. The payment can vary widely. Bail bonds are based on the severity of the crime and can be up to $100,000, but the average bail bond is $4,000. The payment for returning a fugitive is usually 10 percent of the value of the bond, but low-risk fugitives with small bonds may pay less.
New bounty hunters average $25,000 annually. More experienced bounty hunters can easily earn over $100,000. The associated risks often go up with the salary. Bounty hunters who are willing to track down people charged with violent crimes that are set at higher bonds make more money. Bail bondsmen assign cases based on knowledge and skill.