Bounty Hunter License and Law Information
Bounty hunter laws and licensing can be complex since they are different in all 50 states. If bounty hunting is the career for you, determine where you plan to live and work before moving forward so that you do not have to repeat any steps. Seven states and the District of Columbia either ban or seriously limit fugitive trackers, so be aware of where you can legally pursue bail jumpers.
Since bail enforcement cases can extend beyond state lines, you may want to familiarize yourself with the laws of those states bordering your state as well. If you do not know the law, you could end up spending a lot of time and money to find a fugitive without getting paid, or could end up in jail yourself. It is part of the job for a bounty hunter to learn and keep up with law.
Most state websites will have some, if not all, current laws related to bail enforcement. Texas, for example, lists the latest laws and requirements for bounty hunters. You can also find information online at trade organizations for bail enforcement, bounty hunting or fugitive recovery. Be aware that trade organizations often ask their members to help them update their legal information or add it via message boards, so it may not be as current or as accurate as what you would find on a state’s website.
The laws that you need to pay the most attention to will concern how a bounty hunter can operate in a state. Take special note of the laws regarding arresting fugitives. In some states you may be required to work closer with local law enforcement than in others. For your own protection, it is important to follow these laws to the letter.
Many, but not all, states require a bail bond or private investigator license. You will need to pass a background check, and state websites will typically have a form for you to complete. Most likely there will be additional information about a gun “carry” permit. Some states, like California, may also ask you to complete an arrest course or some other kind of training.
Here is an example of typical licensing procedure in Arkansas. First, you will need to apply for a bail bond license. You must have a power of attorney from the bail bond company for which you plan to work, accompanied by an annual $100 fee. Then you will be asked for statements from 3 character witnesses and your fingerprints to conduct a background search to make sure you have had no felonies or “moral turpitude,” or sex-related, convictions. Finally, you will take and pass an exam. Each year you will have to complete 8 hours of continuing education.
In Nevada, you must be 21 years old to get a bail enforcement license. You have to complete an application, provide your employment history and get fingerprinted for a background check. In this state you cannot have been convicted for any drug offense, in addition to not having any felonies or sex-related convictions. An 80-hour class and a psychological evaluation are required as well.
For information about local fugitive recovery laws, go to your state’s website and search for “bail bond” or “private investigator.” You can also find information at trade group sites such as The Fugitive Recovery Network and Private Investigators Union.