Red Dead Redemption 2: How Wanted Levels Work & How To Avoid Bounties | Crime Guide

Crime and punishment go hand-in-hand in Red Dead Redemption 2. This open-world wild west has an entirely revamped “Wanted” system that’s more than a little complicated. If you’re still confused how Wanted Levels work, or why you keep getting bounties even when you’re wearing a mask, this is where I’ll try and break down all the subtleties of the system.

The real trick is learning how to avoid detection if you’re planning on committing crimes. This might take some planning, and a little bit of a cash investment. It isn’t enough to just cover your face. Sometimes you need a better disguise.

On top of that, there are multiple types of Wanted Levels. You can give yourself up to the law, go to jail, and get your bounty cleared. But that’s only for non-violent crimes. For anything worse than that, you’ll be hunted, and bounty hunters might chase after you. Do enough crimes, and an entire town might go under lockdown.

More Red Dead Redemption 2 guides on Gameranx:

A Detailed Breakdown Explaining How Wanted Levels Work | Bounty Guide

When you commit a crime in RDR2, you may enter the “Wanted” state — that’s when lawmen might arrest you, or attempt to kill you on sight. The system isn’t as simple as GTA, and often involves whether you were witnessed, and whether a witness can identify you.¬†

There are two major types of crimes — violent and nonviolent offences. Nonviolent offences include simple robbery. Murder, or armed robbery usually leads to combat. Lawmen will shoot you on sight. If you’re wearing a mask, you may be able to avoid a bounty, but your Honor meter will lower, and you’ll still become Wanted.


Wanted Level – Witnesses

In the commission of a crime, if you’re spotted, a witness icon will appear. If you aren’t recognized, the witness (eye) icon will be white. If you are recognized as Arthur Morgan, the eye icon will be red. Looting bodies, shooting people, robbing people, stealing or fighting — those are all crimes, and witnesses will attempt to run away and report to lawmen.

  • How To Avoid Being Recognized (Red Eye Icon):
    • Before committing a crime, you must put on a mask. Arthur is always wearing a bandana, so lift it up to cover your face.
    • You must cover your face somewhere hidden. Don’t let people see you doing it.
    • Sometimes, the simple bandana isn’t enough. You can purchase large hoods and masks from the Fence, and equip them from your Horse Menu.
    • You may also need to switch clothes. Select a “Crime” outfit and equip it to your horse inventory. Change into this outfit when you’re about to commit a crime.

If you follow all of the steps above, you can commit all the crimes you want and you won’t be recognized, even if a witness reports you. You can also deal with the witness personally. You have two options…

  • How To Deal With Witnesses:
    • When you see a red / white icon, chase down the witness and hold [L2 / LT] to target them.
    • You can threaten a witness. Usually this is enough.
    • If they’re too far, you can kill them. Just beware if there are more people around. You might have even more witnesses on your hands.

If there are no witnesses to your crimes, there will be no bounty. If you’re crimes are witnessed, but you aren’t recognized, there will be no bounty.

  • All bounties can be paid at any post office. Bounties are state-specific, so you are only charged in each specific state where your crime took place. Bounty Hunters will only appear in the states where you’re charged with a crime.

Wanted Level – Bounty Hunters

If your crime is reported, lawmen will arrive in the area. You have two options.

  • Resist: When lawmen appear, you can fight them to escape. If you’re wanted “Dead or Alive”, you don’t have any choice.
  • Surrender: If you’ve committed a minor crime, you can surrender to lawmen. They won’t shoot on sight, and they’ll arrest you. You’ll spend some time in a jail and clear your bounty.
    • If you’re lucky, the Van der Linde gang will bust you out!

A red circle will appear when the lawmen begin their investigation. Your goal is to escape the red circle without being seen. This is called the “Active Pursuit” phase. Different forces will fight you, depending on the area and the severity of your crimes. Gangs with dogs, or even the dreaded¬† US Marshals will appear if you’ve caused too many problems.

  • To escape Active Pursuit, you can also cross any state border. Until you’re dealing with US Marshals, who will gladly cross all state borders to hunt you down.

Bounty Hunters will spawn 12 hours after you’ve committed a crime and still have a bounty on your head. If you pay off the bounty before 12 in-game hours have passed, you won’t have to deal with them.

Wanted Level – Lockdown

If you’ve committed 12 violent criminal offenses in a town area within 60 minutes, the town will enter Lockdown. That means that the entire area will have more lawmen patrols, and all activities will be frozen. You won’t be able to use vendors.

  • Lockdown lasts a long time. Even if you’ve cleared a bounty, you still need to wait for lockdown to end. Lockdown lasts for about 6 in-game hours.