Beyond The Wild West: A History of Bounty Hunting


If a person signs a bail bond contract and chooses to skip bail, bondsmen reserve the right to employ a bounty hunter to return them. Here, we have briefly explained the history and origins of bounty hunting, the authority bounty hunters possess and the requirements for becoming one in the state of Tennessee.

How It Began

Bounty hunting began in the 13th Century in England. Under common law, persons charged with a crime could be released to a surety, usually a relative, who would be responsible for returning the defendant to court for their trial. If this person failed to present them, they would be required to stand trial in their place and would usually be hanged.

Because of this, the person accountable had much to lose if the accused skipped town, leading to the necessity for bounty hunters. Early Americans used British Common Law as a basis for their justice system and adopted this practice.

Later, the surety became money instead of another individual, and bail bond services and their need for bounty hunters became an essential part of the United States’ justice system.

The History of Bounty Hunting

In the 1800s, when the faces of the most wanted criminals could be seen on posters throughout towns, sheriffs offered a reward, or bounty, to whomever returned the accused to the courts. The most daring of men would hunt down the missing criminals and became known as bounty hunters.

In the 1873 Supreme Court case, Taylor v. Taintor, it was ruled that bounty hunters would formally be representatives of bail bondsmen and could legally hunt criminals who skipped bail, giving them the right to arrest that individual.

Today, bounty hunters are usually employed by bail bondsmen and are paid around 10% of the total bail upon returning their fugitive. Bounty hunters tend to be very effective, returning upward of 90% of their targets.

How To Become A Bounty Hunter Now

Laws vary by state in regards to becoming an official bail enforcement agent, but generally, modern day bounty hunters are required to attend some type of continuing education class, receive extensive training and register with the state.

Much of a bounty hunter’s time is spent interviewing, researching and investigating in order to locate their fugitive so many will obtain a degree in Criminal Justice, though it is not required.

In Tennessee, bounty hunter hopefuls must take an eight-hour course offered by the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. To qualify for this class, one must be able to pass a background check, as the only requirement for bounty hunters in Tennessee is they are not convicted felons.

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If you want to know more about Bounty Hunting and our other services, contact us today and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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