PI vs. Bounty Hunter

private investigatorPrivate Investigators and Bounty Hunters – these are personalities who have lived mysterious, romantic lives in stories, novels, and films. They deal with the criminal element, and they’re the good guys set against the bad guys, who need to solve intricate puzzles and mysteries to get the bad guy. Or at least, that is the myth.

Hard-bitten, cynical, hard-as-nails, cool under pressure, smart as a whip, often with a too-smart mouth, all these contribute to the image that we have of Private Investigators and Bounty Hunters. Their real-life versions may not be quite so impressionable, but they do the same work, even if the work itself may not be quite so romantic.

So what’s the difference between a Private Investigator and a Bounty Hunter? The lines do seem to blur between the two, because PIs do sometimes work to track down fugitives and bring them to a court’s jurisdiction, and bounty hunters do often chase fugitives by conducting an investigation and solving mysteries. Both hold licenses to practice as PIs or bounty hunters, and both do seem to move within the same circles. What sets them apart?

To a certain extent, perhaps the difference is only in their titles they ascribe to themselves. The actual work that they do is often similar, with the one outstanding difference that bounty hunters, or bail recovery agents, are mainly tasked to locate, apprehend, and bring back a skip to a court’s jurisdiction. Bounty hunters are often hired by bail bondsmen to locate their clients who have skipped town. To do this, bounty hunters are expected to know how to navigate the field before them: conducting investigations, asking questions, putting two and two together, contacting and coordinating with local authorities when needed, and finally taking action to bring the fugitive back.

A private investigator, on the other hand, has a more versatile job description. He can certainly be hired to locate a skip, and when necessary, he can perhaps conduct a citizen’s arrant to bring a fugitive back to a court’s jurisdiction. But private investigators are also hired for a variety of other jobs, such as locating missing persons, conducting surveillance of suspected wrongdoing, or as crime novels would have us believe, getting in the way of local enforcement officials and solving crimes brilliantly.

So essentially, what does define a private investigator and a bounty hunter is the work that they do, but it is also important to remember that both of them work as agents for the people who hire them. This means that the work that they eventually end up doing depends on what their client has hired them to do.

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