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.