bounty hunter

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Bounty hunter is the term used for someone who is given a reward or a fee for hunting down (capturing) a person or an animal. In the legal sense, a bounty hunter is someone who tracks down criminal defendants who have skipped bail, and turns them in. In the U.S., bounty hunters are mostly hired by a bail-bond company (bail bondsman) to track down a criminal defendant who has failed to appear in court in breach of the bail-bond agreement.

Historically, courts have given bounty hunters numerous powers for bringing fugitives to justice. These powers range from going after a fugitive in another state, arresting a fugitive at any time and, to enter a fugitive’s house to capture him or her without a warrant. At the same time, they don’t have immunities given to state agents like police officers in the exercise of their powers because bounty hunters are more like independent contractors and are not agents of the state. 

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]