The Bail System
When an individual is arrested for a crime he is taken into police custody. Once in police custody, he will be booked and his case will be sent to a prosecutor who will decide which charges will be laid against the arrested individual. Prosecutors have a set amount of time after booking takes place in which they must lay charges. In some states, this period is 72 hrs and in others, it’s 48 hrs. After charges have been set, the defendant is brought before the court. There the judge will recite the charges that have been laid against the defendant. The defendant will then be asked to make a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Once a plea has been made, the presiding judge, depending on the crime the defendant is charged with, may allow the defendant to leave police custody in exchange for bail. This benefits both the judicial system and the defendant because it frees the judicial system from the expense of housing defendants, while simultaneously allowing defendants to leave police custody while they await their trial. Bail also acts as an incentive for defendants to attend their trial.
Judges may set bail at hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is therefore not a surprise when clients are unable to pay their bail themselves. When such a situation arises the defendant may turn to a bondsman who’ll pay the bail in his place. If the defendant attends his court dates his bail will be refunded. However, if the defendant chooses not to attend or misses his court date the court seizes his bail and issues a warrant for his arrest.
What Do Bounty Hunters Do?
To prevent losing his money, a bondsman may hire a bounty hunter to track down, arrest, and bring the defendant back into police custody. Bounty hunters will spend much of their time conducting interviews, researching their target, and conducting surveillance while tracking down a fugitive.
While executing their duties, bounty hunters must strictly adhere to laws and guidelines set by the state. States like Washington require bounty hunters to have “reasonable cause” to believe that a fugitive is presently within a building before entering private property. They are also required to inform law enforcement officials that they are about to enter that property. In Virginia, bounty hunters are required to give law enforcement officials notice 24 hrs in advance of an arrest and 60 minutes after making the arrest.
In exchange for their services, bounty hunters will typically receive ten or twenty percent of the bond or bail amount as payment and they earn a yearly salary that is within the range of $50,000 to $80,000. Employment within the field is expected to grow in the coming years due to the fact that skipping bail is a common occurrence. Those bounty hunters with formal certification and experience will have the most job opportunities available to them.