Do you know the difference between a bail bondsman and a bounty hunter?

01 Aug 2014, by Lucas in Blog

By: Lucas Spoor
One for the MoneyWhat is the difference between a bail bondsman and a bounty hunter? Are bounty hunters anything like they’re portrayed on television or in movies?

Well, to begin with, bail bondsmen can be, but do not have to be bounty hunters. The business of bailing people out of jail is more about assessing financial risk than putting on a studded leather jacket and grabbing an AR-15. Bail bondsmen perform a service to the community; without them, our tax dollars would be siphoned off either for jail staffing or police roundup. When criminals fail to show up for their court dates, it costs the public money because judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have to waste their time showing up in court for a hearing that doesn’t happen. Then further tax money must be spent for police to track down the accused again. This is where bounty hunters, or fugitive recovery agents, come in. They are trained to capture people and return them to jail.

Studies have shown that not only are bounty hunters less expensive than police officers for hunting down people who have skipped bail – they also get their men more often. Fifty percent more often, in fact, because bounty hunters only get paid when they bring criminals back. And they are paid through the bail fees, not at public expense.

So is it like in the movies?

As with most things, reality is often less glamorous than what’s on TV. Lucas Spoor has been filling both roles for much of his adult life, and he stresses that responsibility and reliability are key. Flaky people can’t write bonds. Insurance companies won’t let them. And impulsive, emotional people aren’t the best at staying safe in the field. If the accused does not show up at his court hearing, he obviously has reason to believe that he may be at real risk for a punishment he very likely does not want to serve. So he has incentive to go and stay gone. Which means he also has incentive not to be caught. While many people who seek out the services of bail bondsmen do so because they’ve made one-time mistakes or exercised poor judgment, some accused criminals are, in reality, very dangerous people. So when bail bondsmen take on (or hire someone to take on) the bounty hunter role, they’ve got to be sharp, detail-oriented, and careful. This means donning body armor, bullet-proof vests, and taking other precautions to make sure no one gets hurt, least of all the bounty hunter.

Bounty HunterStephanie Plum is cute, but lucky. Duane Chapman is macho looking. Good bounty hunters aren’t lucky – they’re smart and experienced. And they don’t waste time being macho or putting on a show. Additionally, both bounty hunters and bail bondsmen have to work with professionals in the criminal justice system where clownish appearances or actions are not considered an asset.

The good news is that while around 10 percent of accused criminals jump bail, 97 percent of the time bounty hunters track them down and return them to where they are supposed to be. And society is safer and runs more smoothly because of it.