The wanted system in Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't particularly simple, nor is it the same as in Red Dead Redemption or in any of the GTA games. The game isn't big on in-depth explanations, but understanding how the wanted system works is absolutely crucial and will help you out whenever you're planning a crime.
When you commit an offense, there are several possible outcomes of which only one leads to a wanted status. Either:
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- There are no witnesses, in which case you are in the clear; or
- There are indirect witnesses who saw the crime but cannot identify you in which case you are, again in the clear.
If there is a witness (either directly or indirectly) that can identify you, they will try to warn the authorities. You can prevent this through coercion or force, once again preventing intervention.
Indirect witnesses means a witness that did not see you do the crime necessarily, but saw you at the scene of the crime afterwards.
Only when a witness who can identify you manages to report the crime will there be a wanted situation.
Obviously, if lawmen personally see you commit a crime, this same situation arises. Depending on the severity of your crime, a certain value of bounty is placed on your head, and this determines whether you're wanted alive or either dead or alive.
Active Pursuit Phase
When lawmen arrive on the scene of the crime and spot you, the active pursuit phase is triggered.
The lawmen are trying to catch you before you escape. You have the option to surrender, but only in the case of minor crimes. In this case you are arrested and jailed, which leaves two options - pay the fine and serve your time, or get sprung by your gang. If you try to escape, the lawmen will go after you.
You character blip on the mini-map turns red while you are in their sights. If the line of sight is broken, the red blip will remain on the map where the lawmen last saw you, and will only re-center on your character if you are spotted again.
After a certain time, they consider you escaped, ending the active phase. Alternatively, crossing state borders also ends active pursuit.
Passive Wanted Phase
The passively wanted phase starts after active pursuit is over.
In the state where you are wanted, more lawmen will patrol the roads and checkpoints are set up. Bounty hunters will come after you occasionally. If you commit a string of 12 high severity crimes within 60 real-world minutes, some towns will enter lockdown for 350 in-game minutes. Lockdown limits the number of accessible characters and businesses.
You can end the passively wanted phase by paying your bounty at any post office in the game, which then returns you to your neutral status, getting rid of the wanted level entirely.