Can a Felon Become a Bounty Hunter?

Felons, Bounty Hunters, and Fugitive RecoveryWith shows like Dog the Bounty Hunter and Breakout Kings on TV we often get the question, “Can I be a bounty hunter if I have a felony conviction?”

In general, the answer is “no” but there are several exceptions and it really begins with where you live.  First, each state regulates the bail enforcement industry differently- some require specific licensing, others require that one completes various certification procedures while other states do not require licensing at all; it is in those state where there is no licensing or certification process where a felon may try to pursue work in the bounty hunting business.  I’ll be honest with you though, no one that I know in this business wants to work with a felon and will not knowingly hire a felon.

Yes, I know… Dog Chapman is a felon… but he is essentially working for his wife’s bail bond company in a state that does not license or regulate recovery agents working on behalf of a bail bondsman; Hawaii is one of those states which does not require licensing or certification.

Why then, doesn’t anyone want to work with a felon?

There is a term called “respondeat superior” a key doctrine in the law of agency, which provides that a principal (employer) is responsible for the actions of his agent (employee) in the “course of employment” and this includes the typical independent contractor relationship which most recovery agents have with the client.  Thus, if a bounty hunter causes a liability, the bonding company for which the hunter works will be liable for the injuries as well.  When it comes to light in court that the bondsman hired a felon, a jury will crucify everyone involved.  It has happened on several occasions in the past and I can cite specific cases which involved the use of felons by bondsmen who were subsequently sued for everything they owned- and then some.  It really makes no difference what the felony conviction was for specifically.

Which states do not require licensing or certification?

The list of states not requiring a background investigation for bounty hunters are changing every year and that list is getting smaller all of the time.  Do not take this as legal advice, and I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that of this posting the following states still do not require licensing or certification are:

Rhode Island

Bail enforcement and bounty hunting is altogether illegal, for everyone, in
Nebraska (maybe… but no one seems to know for sure)

Be extra super secret about it in Washington, DC or you will go to jail- they REALLY don’t like bounty hunters or guns there at all.

Don’t chase people into Mexico without going through the “proper channels” and that does not mean A&E (a reference to Duane Chapman that never gets old).

Obviously the list above is subject to change but felons can’t bounty hunt anywhere else –legally.  I seriously doubt that any state is going to repeal their background requirements for bail recovery agents and this list will only get smaller with time.

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Category: FAQ, Information

About the Author (Author Profile)

L. Scott Harrell began a full-time career in private investigation and bail enforcement in 1995. He has apprehended over 1,700 bail fugitives and successfully closed several hundred additional skip trace and missing persons assignments. He routinely works with national surety companies and owned two very successful investigation agencies in Louisiana, Texas and now Florida. He is a noted speaker, author and mentor in the bail enforcement and fugitive recovery profession.

Comments (13)

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  1. fred stallings says:

    hey my names fred and in 98 my dad past and i got in trouble with the law at 17 always wanted to be in the marines but i screwed up befor i could join my other dream was bounty hunting and i still want to do it i live in aiken sc. I have changed my life completely around and would now help anyone i could im a good person and want to have a good future that is slowly runing away from me do u no anything that will help me start bounty hunting thankx

  2. jay says:

    so in ohio requires one?, and does ur program officially lic me if i order and complete?

  3. David says:

    how can dog be a bounty hunter out of hawaii? Ive seen him do jobs here in colorado on his shows and bounty hunting is not allowed for felons in colorado.

  4. I have a 5th degree felony. For non-payment of, can I be a bounty hunter?

  5. Lisa says:

    I Agree with Jay does ohio need a Lic to be aboe to become a hunter and will this site help me get certified?
    Here is a couple things I fouind for Ohio cause I live in ohio also :)

  6. chuck says:

    you people act like all felons are all bad.Im 36 years old and got in trouble when i was 18.I now own a bail company. own my house and cars.Have a little respect when you talk about somthing that is that sensative.Dont forget you have done somthing in your life that if you would have got caught you would be a felon to.For the ones that are felons you have to go back to the judge and get it droped. believe me 14 years ago i was convicted. a layer and around 5,000 and a little time and you also can live your dream. keep your head up and try to not pay no mind to the ones that dont no what they are talking about.

    • shawn murphy says:

      thanks i
      am 37 and i did something 12 years ago trying to be a
      one thanks for info

    • Randy says:

      Chuck I would love to work for you I live in Minnesota please contact me at and let me know if you would hire me I am also a felon.

    • eric r says:

      Hey Chuck im really glad to see someone stick up for those who made a mistake in the PAST and have moved on to make their life better . I was looking into becoming a bail enforcement agent but i made my mistake 10 years ago (no drugs or violence ) . We are close in age so i ask what state are you in that you were able to ask the judge to remove the felony, ny anly allows r.o.d. thanks Eric

  7. vincent hall says:

    Hi. My name is vincent and i use to have a felony record all u have to do is pay your court fees. And wait 6-7yrs to get your records expluged and then go to the court house and file your explugment papers to the courts and wait for the judge to mail u some papers to come bck to court and if there not bad felonys then the judge will grant it…

  8. Roberto says:

    Just want to say that me also being a felon, could get into places and get info that the non-felons can’t. Hhhmm

  9. david melton says:

    i would like to become a bounty hunter but i also have a felont 20 years ago can you help

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