On bounty hunters

Are bounty hunters part of the judicial system in all 50 states?

Are they used just for retrieving bail jumpers?

Are there any other developed countries that use bounty hunters?


  1. I really don’t know.

  2. Yes…they are used for bail jumpers only. Your basic day-to-day catching of criminals is the job of police (or FBI or whatever). While not showing for court may be a crime that the police would drag you in for I believe the people who actually hire bounty hunters are bail bondsmen who want the money they just paid to the court system back. I don’t believe that the judicial system itself ever pays for bounty hunters (again…why bother when they have police at their disposal).

  3. Again I have no idea but at a guess I’d say yes. Many developed countries have judicial systems patterned after other judicial systems (as the US is patterned after British law). I would assume somewhere, someplace bounty hunting got carried over.

Hey all,

I can pretty much answer a couple of your queries, having at one time been a “Bounty Hunter”, more commonly called a “Runner”.

It was many years ago, but I do not believe the statutes regarding this have not changed much in the last 200 years. The legal authority for someone to track and capture a party who is wanted in regards to a “forfeiture of bond”, meaning they did not perform as the bond dictated, is governed by Contractual Law, not Criminal Law. And this is relatively uniform throughtout all 50 states and the territories governed by U.S. Law.

When a person arrested for a crime, he is allowed by law to have a “bail” amount set by a judge. Once this bail is paid, the individual is released from custody under certain restrictions dictated by the Court. Bail can be met in two ways. The person can either pay the full bail amount to the Court, at which point they are released from custody and are obligated to perform certain acts for the Court, such as being present for a scheduled hearing, etc.

Or the person can contract with a Bail Bondsman, who backed by an insurance company or his own private fund, will “guarantee” to the Court that his client will perform as required by the Court. For this service, the person pays the Bail Bondsman only 10% of the full bail price (non-refundable). With a Bondsman, the person is paying a 10% premium for a service. Basically the service is that the Bondsman covers the total cost of the bail while the client only pays 10%.

Of course, bail is fully refundable if the person chooses to pay it in full himself, but many people do not have the means to come up with bail on short notice. In comes the Bondsman, who usually will require some sort of collateral from the person on top of the 10% fee to secure his services. The collateral will usually cover the entire cost of the bail, which the Bondsman is responsible for should his client not perform as the Court orders.

Now with that brief background I will explain the differences between Criminal Law and Contractual Law. In Criminal Law, the person being bailed has all his legal rights intact. He has the right to a lawyer, due process, evidential rules, ect. However, in Contractual Law the person signs away all his legal rights when he signs the contract for Bond with the Bondsman. In short, the Bondsman now “owns” the person en toto!

The Bondsman can do anything reasonably required to make sure the client performs according to the court’s wishes…up to and including holding/incarcerating the person privately while waiting on the Court’s date to perform to arrive (This is extreme, and is rarely used. Most “bad risk” Bonds are avoided, and the person remains in jail or pays full bail to the Courts).

The strength of Contractual Law is what gives the Bondsman and his employee, the Runner, the rights to cross State lines, search w/o warrant, perform surveilance on a client, etc. When the person “skips out” on the Bond, if the Bondsman was smart, he had enough collateral to cover the bail. If not, he will usually hire a Runner for a fee of 10% of the original bail amount to track and apprehend the client. While working for the Bondsman, the Runner is covered by all the Contractual Laws that allow the Bondsman to persue his client.

There are also times when the Courts themselves will hire private Runners to apprehend persons who have fled without performing as the Court dictated. Now-a-days, this is usually done by Law Enforcement agencies, however, there are still provisions in the U.S. Legal Code that allow for the true Bounty Hunter to operate, just as in the old “wild West” days. Although, to my knowledge, this is very rare these days, and frowned upon by the Court System and Law Enforcement agencies.

Sorry to be so long-winded… I hope it helped you out.


We don’t have bounty hunters in Canada. In fact, based on vtel57’s explanation, operating a commercial bail bondsman system would likely be held to be an obstruction of justice.

Section 139(1) of the Criminal Code reads:

So, the insurance company that backs the bondsman would be committing an offence under paragraph (a) by agreeeing to pay the bondsman if the bailee skips, while the bondsman himself would be committing an offence under paragraph (b) by taking a fee from the bailee as a condition of standing surety.

What it boils down to is that in Canada, standing surety cannot be done for profit. That means that only people who have a personal connexion to the bailee (family, spouse, friends) are likely to stand surety.

As for why the difference, one thing that comes to mind is that criminal law in Canada is a federal responsibilty. A judge’s order for the arrest of someone is valid across Canada, without the need for extradition from another province.

(An alternative explanation may be the combination of the Wild West and free enterprise in the U.S. :smiley: )

Hi NP,

I am totally unfamiliar with any of the laws of my esteemed neighbors to the north, but from your excerpt here it does seem as thought you may be correct in your assertions. I know that the “bail” system is derived from old English Law, which is also the basis for the evolution of most other laws in previous English colonies and possessions.

The commercial “bond” aspect of U.S. Law could very will be a result of this country’s tendency to put a price on any service. Hey! That’s capitalism at its best! It was quite interesting reading your input here. I had thought this thread dead months ago. Thanks for your input. I am far, far from an expert on this topic, but it was something of interest to me many years ago when I was young and adventuresome.


You’re right, this thread was dead, but it got referred to recently in this thread, and I thought my comment fitted better in this one, in answer to the specific question posed.