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In the United States legal system, the 1872 U.S. Supreme Court case (Taylor v. Taintor) established that the person into whose custody a person accused of a crime is remanded as part of the accused's bail has sweeping rights to recover that person. Thus most bounty hunters are in the employ of a bail bondsman. The bounty hunter is paid a portion of the bail the fugitive initially paid, since if the fugitive successfully eludes bail the bondsman is responsible for the remainder of their bail. Thus the bounty hunter is the bail bondsman's way of ensuring his clients arrive at trial. In the United States, bounty hunters catch an estimated 30,000 bail jumpers per year. Bounty hunters are also commonly known as Bail Enforcement Agents or Fugitive Recovery Agents, which are the preferred industry terms.
In the United States of America bounty hunters have nearly limitless authority in their duties with regard to their targets. Unlike a police officer, a bounty hunter can enter the fugitive's private property without a warrant. Normally bounty hunters do not undergo any formal training, and are generally unlicensed, only requiring sanction from a bail bondsman to operate.
Several states have placed additional restrictions on bounty hunters. In California, bounty hunters must undergo a background check and two weeks of training, and in Texas, they are prohibited from carrying firearms. Other states require bounty hunters to wear clothing identifying them as such. In Kentucky bounty hunting is generally not allowed because the state does not have a system of bail bondsmen, and releases bailed suspects on their own recognizance, thus there is no bondsman with the right to apprehend the fugitive. Generally only fugitives from other states who have fled bail on Federal charges from another state where bounty hunting is legal are allowed to be hunted in Kentucky.
Bounty hunters can also run into problems if a fugitive enters another country. Laws in other nations can be quite different, and taking a fugitive may even be considered kidnapping. Noted bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman had been arrested after crossing into Mexico, apprehending Andrew Luster, and not turning Luster over to Mexican authorities. He was later declared a fugitive by a Mexican prosecutor. Daniel Kear pursued and apprehended Sidney Jaffe at a residence in Canada. Kear was extradited to Canada, and convicted of kidnapping. While the United States Government is generally willing to tolerate the activities of bounty hunters in the United States since they help the justice system, the government has not been so willing to tolerate these activities when they cause problems with other sovereign nations.
Several bounty hunters have also been arrested for killing a fugitive or apprehending the wrong person. Unlike a police officer, they have no legal protections against injuries to civilians and few legal protections against injuries to their target.
In Westerns, bounty hunters are commonly depicted as romantic figures, such as the so-called Man with No Name played by Clint Eastwood. This tradition has been adopted by science fiction (Frequently inspired by westerns), with characters like Boba Fett, Spike Spiegel or Samus Aran.
- American Bail Coalition Located in Washington, D.C.
- Bail Enforcement Agent Training Located in both New Jersey and New York
- Bail Enforcement Training Online training only
- Pacific Northwest Bail Enforcement Academy Located in Tacoma, Washington
- American Institute of Bail Bonding and Bail Enforcement Located in Denver, Colorado
- National Institue of Bail Enforcement Directed by Bob Burton, and located in Spring Grove, Illinois
- Northwest Fugitive Recovery Agency Located in Kane, Pennsylvania