Bail Bonds - Recourse for Bail Jumpers
†Surety agents and professional bail bondsmen offer bail bonds as an alternative for defendants who cannot afford to pay the full amount of bail.†
In most cases, this system works properly, and the defendant makes all necessary appearances in court. However, roughly 20 percent of the time, the defendant will ďjump bailĒ, meaning he or she does not show up for court. When this happens, the bondsman becomes responsible for payment of the full bail amount. One way to discourage defendants from missing court is by requiring some type of collateral like a car title for the bail bond. The bondsman will also often hire a bounty hunter to find the missing defendant and return him or her to custody.
The origins of bounty hunters can be traced back to early American settlements. When an outlaw was wanted by law enforcement, a sign would be posted offering reward money for turning the fugitive in. Bounty hunters would search for the missing criminal simply to collect the reward. Modern bounty hunters, or bail enforcement agents, are trained and licensed men and women, and are hired by bail bonds agents specifically for the capture of a bail jumper. Unlike law enforcement officers, bounty hunters are able to cross state lines while pursuing the wanted individual, and can also break into the individualís place of residence without a search warrant. They are, however, required to confirm with absolute certainty that the home being entered is the defendantís.
A bail bond involves a contract between the bondsman and the defendant, who must agree to certain conditions in order to receive the bond. Those conditions often include a waiver of constitutional rights. This is what allows the bounty hunter to enter the individualís home and/or arrest the individual without obtaining a warrant. Bounty huntersí operations are subject to state regulations, which may call for specific training and licensing requirements.
One of the strictest states, Connecticut, mandates that bounty hunters must be professionally licensed, armed with licensed and approved guns only, and wearing uniforms and badges when pursuing a fugitive. More lenient states do not require licenses or training of any kind for bail enforcement agents. In Kentucky, Oregon, and Illinois, bounty hunters are completely prohibited from arresting bail jumpers. These three states, and the state Wisconsin, also prohibit commercial bail bonding. Bounty hunters are completely banned from arresting a defendant outside of the United States.
When a bounty hunter successfully captures a defendant, the bondsman pays between ten and twenty percent of the total bail bond for the hunterís services. The National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents boasts that they catch close to 90 percent of all bail jumpers.
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