Bail Bondsman vs. Bounty Hunter: What’s the Difference?

Bail bond agent signing papers
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When asked about what they wanted to be when they were younger, many people might have said a doctor, a teacher, or a princess – among the common answers to the question. For most Americans, those young whims translated into real jobs when they reached adulthood. In fact, some of the most common jobs in the U.S. include retailers, teachers, and nurses. Of course, not many become a real-life royal, unless you’re Meghan Markle.

But as careers go, there sure are many unusual ones out there. Did you know that you can have a job as a nail polish namer, a color expert, or even a professional ethical hacker? Another unusual job? Being a bail bondsman or a bounty hunter. Sounds intriguing, right? But what, exactly, do bail bondsman and bounty hunters do?

Bail Bondsman vs. Bounty Hunters

When a person gets arrested, they can secure their temporary release from jail through bail. Posting bail is the process of depositing a sum of money with the court. If the defendant attends all required court appearances, the bail money will be returned to them.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it), some defendants cannot afford to post the entire bail amount. This is when they turn to a bail bond company.

Bail agents or bail bondsmen are people who loan out bail money to defendants so they can post bail and obtain their temporary freedom. Sounds noble, right? Maybe now you’re wondering how to become a bail bondsman. But before you start your career in that field, there are a few more things you need to know.

Bail bondsmen make their money by requiring defendants to pay them a percentage of the bail amount that’s borrowed, usually set at 10 percent. Then, the bail bondsman will secure the rest of the borrowed bail amount in the form of collateral. This can be the defendant’s car, home, or any other property.

Some defendants, though, fail to make an appearance in court. This means that they default on the bond. As a bail bondsman, you risk losing the money that a defendant used for bail, but won’t get back because they missed a court date. Courts usually allow around 90 days for the accused to be turned in to get the bail money out of default. In cases like this, bail bondsmen work with bounty hunters.

Bounty hunter at the office

A “bounty hunter” may sound like a character from a swash-buckling 1920s Western movie, but their job is very real and equally important. Bounty hunters, also known as Skip Tracers or Fugitive Recovery Agents, work with bail bondsmen to track, apprehend, and return fugitive criminals to the justice system.

Only if they’re successful at locating and apprehending a fugitive do bounty hunters get paid a percentage of the bail amount. This is why they’re motivated to do their job right. In that regard, bounty hunters not only help bail bondsmen get their money back, but they also help the various communities by bringing accused criminals back into the justice system to face their charges. In some states, a bail bondsman may also work as a bounty hunter.

The close working relationship between a bail bondsman and a bounty hunter is why many people confuse the two careers. In much simpler terms, though, bail bondsmen help defendants temporarily get out of jail, while bounty hunters put them back in.

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