So, you think you’d like an unusual career? One that will leave people gasping at your boldness the next time you’re at a party and someone asks what you do for a living? Consider becoming a bounty hunter like David Johnston, who says his time in the military helped him to succeed at this career.
What is a bounty hunter?
Bounty hunters—more correctly if not more generally referred to as bond enforcement agents—track down and capture those people accused of crimes who attempt to avoid going to court to answer criminal charges filed against them by “jumping” the bail they were able to get a bondsman to post on their behalf.
Johnston, who served in the U.S. Marines from 1989-1999, worked in battalion reconnaissance all over the world. Commonly known as Marine Division Recon, these units are the reconnaissance assets of Marine Air-Ground Task Force that provide division-level ground and amphibious reconnaissance to the ground combat element. Division reconnaissance teams are employed to observe and report on enemy activity and other information of military significance in close operations.
Working as a bail bondsman requires vigilance and caution
Military training gave him the extra measure of caution and vigilance bounty hunters need to stay alert and aware, says Johnston. “When I’m going out and looking for people, my military experience makes me more observant.”
The reason bail bondmen exist is that not everyone accused of a crime has the funds to post bail, which is the amount of money a judge has determined the defendant must deposit with the court to assure that he or she will appear at trial.
In such cases, people “borrow” funds from a bail bondsman, who provides those funds in exchange for a percentage—usually 10 percent of the amount financed.
Bail bonds act as insurance to guarantee the accused will show up for the scheduled court appearance.
However, about 20 percent of those accused either skip town or try and go into hiding. Bondsmen are liable for the amount of the bail bond, which is where bounty hunters come in, to track down “skips.”
Bail bondsman pay expectations
“You can make a decent living at it, but bond enforcement is a hit and miss business,” Johnson says. “None of it is in your hands,” says Johnston. “It’s all based on when people get arrested and when they do or do not go to court—how people are behaving in the world.”
According to Johnston, bounty hunting is surprisingly cyclical. “You can be not busy for a long time and then all of a sudden get very busy,” he says. “For example, coming up on the holidays, everybody wants to get family members out of jail. But during tough economic times, people stay in longer because they or their family members don’t have money to get them out.”
Industry-wide, bounty hunters typically receive anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total bail bond. Experienced bounty hunters, who work as many as 150 cases a year, earn anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 annually.
By their own accounts, bounty hunters are more effective than the police: Figures from the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents show they nab nearly 90 percent of all bail jumpers.
Written By Julie Crawshaw