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Definition of Fugitive Recovery Agent

A Fugitive Recovery Agent captures fugitives for a monetary reward (bounty). Other names, mainly used in the United States, include bail enforcement agent, bounty hunter, and bail fugitive investigator. Fugitive Recovery Agents and bounty hunters, are legal in only two nations: the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. Other countries do not recognize the concept of bounty hunting and consider it kidnapping, a criminal act. They use law enforcement agencies to recover fugitives accused of crime.

Laws in the U.S.

In the United States legal system, the 1873 U.S. Supreme Court case Taylor v. Taintor, 16 Wall (83 U.S. 366, 21 L.Ed. 287), is cited as having established that the person into whose custody an accused is remanded as part of the accuser's bail has sweeping rights to that person (although this may have been accurate at the time the decision was reached, the portion cited was obiter dictum and has no binding precedential value). Most bounty hunters are employed by bail bondsmen: the bounty hunter is paid about 10% of the bail the fugitive initially paid. If the fugitive eludes bail, the bondsman, not the bounty hunter, is responsible for the remainder of the fugitive's bail. This is a way of ensuring his clients arrive at trial. In the United States, bounty hunters claim to catch 31,500 bail jumpers per year, about 90% of people who jump bail.

Bounty hunters are sometimes called "skiptracers," but this usage can be misleading. While bounty hunters are often skiptracers as well, skiptracing generally refers to the process of searching for an individual through less direct methods than active pursuit and apprehension, such as private investigators or debt collectors. To a civil matter and does not always imply criminal conduct on the part of the individual being traced.

In the United States of America, bounty hunters have varying levels of authority in their duties with regard to their targets depending on which states they operate in. As opined in Taylor v. Taintor, and barring restrictions applicable state by state, a bounty hunter can enter the fugitive's private property without a warrant in order to execute a re-arrest. They cannot, however, enter the property of anyone other than the fugitive without a warrant or the owner's permission.

In some states, bounty hunters do not undergo any formal training, and are generally unlicensed, only requiring sanction from a bail bondsman to operate. In other states, however, they are held to varying standards of training and license. In most states they are prohibited from carrying firearms without proper permits. State legal requirements are often imposed on out-of-state bounty hunters, meaning a suspect could temporarily escape re-arrest by entering a state in which the bail agent has limited or no jurisdiction.


The State of Connecticut has a detailed licensing process that requires that any person that wants to engage in the business as a bail enforcement agent (bounty hunter), they must first obtain a professional license from the Commissioner of Public Safety; specifically detailing that "No person shall, as surety on a bond in a criminal proceeding or as an agent of such surety, engage in the business of taking or attempting to take into custody the principal on the bond who has failed to appear in court and for whom a re-arrest warrant or capias has been issued unless such person is licensed as a bail enforcement agent" Connecticut has strict standards which requires Bail Enforcement Agents to pass an extensive background check and while engaging in fugitive recovery operations; be uniformed, notify the local police barrack, wear a badge, and only carry licensed and approved firearms; noting that the use of handguns and long guns are permitted. [3]

Several schools in Connecticut have obtained certification by the Connecticut State Police to pre-license Bail Enforcement Agent's in a minimum of 20 hours of Criminal Justice training and a minimum of 8 hours of firearms training.


Kentucky prohibits bounty hunting in any form. Only a peace officer may make an arrest on a warrant that is issued in NCIC. This is because the state does not have a system of bail bondsmen.


Louisiana requires bounty hunters to wear clothing identifying them as such.


In Texas, every bounty hunter is required to be a peace officer, Level III (armed) security officer, or a private investigator.

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