What is the difference between a bondsman and a bounty hunter?
Are they the same thing? No, although they both work together these are two very different job tasks. A bondsmanís job duties typically consist of arranging contracts and paperwork necessary to secure the release of a criminal defendant from custody. In order to acquire this position one must be licensed by the state in which they are providing bonds. The official title a bondsman holds is "Licensed Bail Agent". As such a Licensed Bail Agent has the ability to track down their own clients who do not abide by the agreement and place them into custody.
A Licensed Bail Agent must be familiar with local court systems and their offices can often be found near civic centers or court houses. When processing a bond the bail agent will require a co-signer or a signature from the actual defendant in order to document the liable party prior to the defendantís release. A bail bonds agent is called into service when a criminal defendant needs to get out of jail.
A bounty hunterís official modern title is "Fugitive Recovery Agent" or "Bail Fugitive Spy", but can also be known in some communities as the slang "skip tracers" as well. A Fugitive Recovery Agent requires documentation provided by a judge in order to begin pursuing a defendant. Because of the dangerous nature of their assignments, bounty hunters must qualify and regularly test in firearms training as well as completion of the proper training on the use of non lethal weapons such as stun guns, mace, and proper restraining procedures. Tactical training is required in order to ensure the bounty hunter has an advantage in a situation if they must enter the defendantís home. Typically a bounty hunter will be equipped with a firearm, taser, Kevlar vest (or other body armor), mace and handcuffs.
Bounty hunters typically inform law enforcement agents of their intention to arrest a target in order to avoid any mis-communication issues with law enforcement agents present at the area of interest. A Fugitive Recovery Agent is called in when a defendant does not honor their terms of the arrangement which results most commonly from skipping a court date. Bounty hunting is an interesting phenomenon occurring legally only in two countries in the world today. Only the United States of America and the Philippines make it legal to allow a third party bounty hunter to pursue and detain a defendant. This profession is very detail intensive and takes in elements from other professions such as law enforcement and private investigation.
Because of the time extensive work needed in order to successfully detain a fugitive the roles are typically split between a recovery agent and a bonds agent. Leads and tips need to be thoroughly investigated and intelligence must be gathered on the target before acquisition can be made.
Within many bail bonds companies the Licensed Bail Agent will often act as one of the Fugitive Recovery Agents as well. There is however a difference in both of the tasks which these agents may conduct throughout their practice.