The process to become a bounty hunter in California requires just four steps, though it may take a while to get those four steps completed.
- An individual must meet the California State Requirements
- It is advisable (though not required) to obtain at least an associates degree in a related field.
- Participate in and pass the required courses.
- Be a licensed bail bond company, or be employed by one.
In California, only sworn police officers are given the authority to place citizens under arrest, except in specific situations required to maintain the bail industry. Individuals authorized to arrest someone and return them to the custody of law enforcement officials on behalf of a bail bond agency are:
- Bail Bondsman -- The bondsman or agency who issued the bail bond for the arrestee. This is an individual or company licensed by the California Department of Insurance)
- The depositor of bail -- The person who deposited the bail and arranged for the release of the arrestee. This could be an ordinary citizen who arranged and deposited bail with the court on behalf of another person.
- Private Investigator – a person who is licensed by the State of California as a Private Investigator who has been given written authorization from either the bail bondsman, agency or depositor of bail.
- Bounty Hunter – This is an individual who is recognized in California as a fugitive recovery agent, who also has written authorization from either the bail bond agency or the depositor of bail.
Bounty hunters in California do not have to be licensed if their only responsibility is to track, locate and return bail fugitives, though many are also licensed as bail agents, as well. However, bounty hunters will have to meet the state requirements and complete the required training.
What Does A Bounty Hunter Do?
Bounty hunters play an important role in the bail bond industry and the criminal justice system. They help locate and return defendants who have been released on bail or bond while awaiting trial and who fail to keep the terms of their pretrial release. When a defendant has been released on bail, they make a promise to return to court for all ordered appearances and trial proceedings. If they fail to do so, the person or entity who deposited bail or bond with the court will be required to forfeit their investment. In the case of a bail bond, the entire amount of the bail will be required in payment. This represents a significant loss to the bail depositor.
A bounty hunter, or bail fugitive recovery person, is someone who is hired by the depositor of bail to apprehend the bail fugitive and return them to authorities in order to have the bail released from the court. In other words, a bounty hunter works for the person who paid the bail, to return the bail fugitive so that the depositor can get their money back.
California State Minimum Requirements For Bounty Hunters
In order to be recognized as a California bounty hunter, an individual must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the State of California and have received the required training. The minimum requirements are:
- An individual must be at least 18 years old.
- California bounty hunters need to be US citizens.
- Must furnish proof of two year’s residency in California.
- Cannot have a felony conviction and be able to pass a background check.
Continuing Education For Bounty Hunting
Only a high school diploma and the state required training is vital to the process of becoming a bounty hunter. However, while it is not required by the State of California, it is desirable for bounty hunters to have a degree in a related field and many bounty hunters in California have an associates or bachelors degree in criminal justice, psychology, sociology, political science, a law degree, or criminology.
Degree programs in the recommended fields are great preparation for the training required by the state. Apprehending fugitives will require an understanding of human nature, experience working with different types of people, and involve critical thinking skills that a college education can help develop. Having one of these degrees will not exempt you from having to pass the required state training courses before being recognized by the state as a bounty hunter, and you will want to consider working with experienced bail bond agents and fugitive recovery specialist to further build your skills before striking out on your own. No amount of training can replace the education that comes with years of experience in the bail bond and recovery industry.
Required State Course For Bounty Hunters
Before being legally recognized as a bounty hunter in the State of California, an individual must pass a 40-hour course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, as well as a 20-hour course on bail education pre-licensing, approved by the California Department of Insurance.
- The POST course is 40 hours of training on the power of arrest and will provide an individual with the procedural knowledge required to take a fugitive into custody, but it does not, on its own, give someone the authority to arrest another person.
- The 20-hour course from the Department of Insurance will provide an individual with some overview regarding the bail bond industry and the rights and responsibilities of the bail bond agent.
Even after completion of all training, a bounty hunter is only authorized to arrest those individuals for whom he has written permission from an authorized party to apprehend. A bounty hunter must keep the proof of completion of the required courses on their person at all times, when working, and have the paperwork to prove their authorization to pursue the individual in question. This written authorization includes the bounty hunters full legal name and any aliases, their business address, and the name and address of the authorizing party. The authorizing party would be either the bail bond agency or depositor of bail who hired the bounty hunter.
What Is It Like To Be A Bounty Hunter In California?
When the duties of a bounty hunter are carried out with diligence and care, fugitive recovery specialists are an asset to the community and receive the pleasure of doing an important job with excellent rewards. There are moments of great excitement. However, we learn from real life bail bond agents and bounty hunters that the majority of the time, the realities of bounty hunting are not nearly as exciting as it looks on TV.
It can be difficult finding employment as a newly trained bounty hunter. The liability of employing inexperienced people is too great for most bail bond agencies to risk. There are ways to get the experience you need to prove your worth in the field, however, if you have the tenacity to just keep trying.