A skip tracer is, essentially, a bounty hunter. Before you start thinking of bounty hunters as they existed in the Old West, realize that this is not the reality of the situation. In fact, in a rather rare instance of this, some of the reality television shows that followed bounty hunters around gave a good idea of what they do.
It Starts with Bail
Skip Tracers generally work with bail bondsman. A bail bond company puts up a surety bond for someone who needs money to get out of jail on the contingency that the person makes their court date. Ideally, the person makes their court date and the bail bond is exonerated right then and there. There are people, however, who decide to skip out on their court date and to, to put it in common terms, open up a can of worms that they never wanted to deal with.
When the defendant skips their court date, the court will issue a warrant for their arrest right away. At the same time, the bail bond company that put their trust in the person to show up for their court date suddenly becomes liable for the full amount of the bail required to get that person out of jail in the first place. As you might’ve guessed, this can sometimes amount to tens of thousands of dollars or even more.
The bail bond company will engage the services of skip tracers, in some cases, to find the person who absconded from their court date. These are professional individuals who are not law enforcement agents per se, but who do have quite a few powers that allow them to go after the person who skipped out on their court date.
In the best case scenario, the tracers working for the bail bond company manage to track down the person, bring them back to jail and resolve the whole situation. In fact, contrary to what people who go on the run likely think, these professionals end up catching the people who skip out on their bail more than 90% of the time.
People who keep their commitments to a bail bond company never have to deal with bounty hunters or, as they generally prefer to be called, skip tracers. They only come into play when somebody fails to hold up their obligations and puts everyone around them in a bad situation, and the consequences for doing so are generally rather severe.