Man in handcuffs

Bounty: The Details

The word bounty brings many great things to mind: a classic movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, a shaggy -haired gruff pseudo-lawman who stars on a reality show, Dogg the Bounty Hunter, and an ample supply of something as in a bountiful blessings. The list can go on and on, but the bounty we are most accustomed to is the one that’s paid when a crime has been committed.

A bounty is a sum of money or an item given generally by the government to certain persons for a service they have done or are about to do; it is an amount given as an incentive or as a reward for catching or assisting in the capture of a criminal or outlaw.  A bounty would not be needed if a person who has committed a crime and been released on bail would honor the agreement he made with a bail bondsman.

History is replete with fascinating stories about bounties that were placed on groups or individuals. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a bounty placed by the government on a race of people. This law strengthen the resolve to recapture slaves who had escaped from the South seeking freedom in the North. This law made it lawful for citizens to act as bounty hunters. They could with impunity capture slaves who had made it to freedom in the North and return them to their masters in the South. In 2003 the government of the United States of America placed a bounty of $25 million dollars on Saddam Hussein and $15 million dollars on his two sons. This was done to allay the insurgency that took place in Iraq after Saddam was ousted from office.

The issuance of a bounty is thought by many to be a violent way of recapturing someone who has broken the law. Most of the time the phrase “Wanted: Dead or Alive” accompanies posters of those who have absconded from the long arm of the law. Quintin Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained expanded the concept of the western and the wild west’s most infamous character, the bounty hunter.

Freedom is never more precious than when it is lost. If you find yourself behind bars, your very first concern is getting out. After committing a crime and then getting caught, a defendant is booked and placed in police custody. Bail is a set amount of money you pay in exchange for your release. Bail is set by the court, and administered through a judge/magistrate who sets a bail schedule. If you show up for court as promised, you will be released on bond. If you choose not to show up, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. Bail amounts vary from state to state and from county to county. If a cash bail is set, the defendant must pay the cost of that amount to be released. For example if bail is set at $20,000 dollars you would need to pay $2,000 dollars to be released.

When bail is set, the magistrate considers several things about the defendant:
Is the defendant a flight risk
Does the defendant have a record
Has the defendant defaulted on bail before
Does the defendant have family in the area
Is the defendant employed
Does the defendant have an open case

“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” is a word to the wise that is often ignored. A bounty is issued usually as a last resort, and it usually says that you, the defendant, are not a person who can be trusted.

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