California Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    With a population of over 39 million people, California is one of the states that allows the profession of bounty hunting (a.k.a., bail fugitive recovery) without licensing, but with some regulations for qualifications and training requirements. While using the term “bounty hunter” is generally permitted in California, the preferred term is bail fugitive recovery agents. Bail fugitive recovery agents aim to catch fugitives who have skipped bail (or “skips”) and bring them back into the hands of law enforcement. While cash bail is still available for those who opt for it, continuing legal challenges to the cash bail system are likely to lessen the demand for bail bond and fugitive recovery services in the state. Continue reading below to learn more about the process for becoming a bounty hunter in California and the current requirements in place in the state for the profession.

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    Requirements for Prospective Bounty Hunters in California

    While the state has no official licensing requirements for bounty hunters, California did enact the Bail Fugitive Recovery Persons Act in 1999, and then a new, updated version of the Act in 2013. The Act, also called Penal Code 1299 (or PC 1299), serves to provide a framework and some guidelines for those in California who want to make their living as bail fugitive recovery agents.

    In terms of qualifications, the Bail Fugitive Recovery Persons Act states that bounty hunters must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have no felony convictions*
    • Comply with the PC 1299 training requirements

    *If you do have a felony conviction, you must have a Bail Agent license from the California Department of Insurance (CDI).

    These requirements apply to all bounty hunters and bail fugitive recovery agents licensed after January 1, 2000. There are some exceptions to the requirements laid out in PC 1299. For example, licensed private investigators are exempt from all requirements above. Out-of-state bail fugitive recovery agents and private investigators who are licensed in another state may work in California, as long as they comply with California Penal Code Section 847.5.

    Steps to a Career as a Bail Fugitive Recovery Agent in California

    While licensing is not required in California, the following steps need to be followed in order to work as a bail recovery agent once you have met the above requirements of being 18 and having no felony convictions.

    1. Complete at least 20 hours of bail education.

    The first step to licensure for those 18 years of age and older is to take a CDI certified training course. Both the Accelerated Bail Agent Pre-Licensing & Bail Fugitive Recovery Training course and the Bounty Hunting & Bail Fugitive Recovery courses cover this requirement and are combined into one for a fee of $550 as of January 2022.

    2. Complete at least 40 hours of a Powers to Arrest course.

    Ensure your course is certified by the California Commission on Peace Office Standards and Training (POST). The PC 832 Arrest and Firearms course fulfills the requirements.

    3. Carry the certificates of completion from the training programs with you at all times.

    According to PC 1299, once you have completed the coursework required to be a bail agent, you must carry the proof of completion with you at all times while performing your bounty hunting duties. This will protect you should you need to verify your authorization to perform fugitive recovery job duties at any time.

    4. Optional: Apply for a Bail License with the CDI.

    If you have a felony conviction and would like to become a bail fugitive recovery agent in California, you must first become a licensed bail agent with the CDI. This requires completing the Bail License application.

    5. Develop relationships with bail bondsmen to build your client base.

    Perhaps the most important step in working as a successful bail fugitive recovery agent in the state of California is to build your client base. When you first start in the field, you will have to meet with bail bondsmen, get to know them, and gain their trust. As you gain experience, you should naturally be able to grow your business by gaining more steady work with bail bondsmen who trust your work. Once you begin getting jobs, be sure to always carry with you the proper documentation of authority to apprehend the fugitive issued by the bail or depositor. The documentation must include the name and address of the bail or surety company contracting with you to catch the fugitive.

    Related Careers

    For supplemental income, more opportunities, and cross-training, bounty hunters in California can also consider being trained in these related areas.

    Private Investigator/Private Detective

    Since it is closely related to bounty hunting, private investigation is widely recommended by experts as a logical way to complement bounty hunting work and provide an additional source of income. Prospective private investigators in California must be at least 18 years of age and never have been convicted of a crime. The licensing process can take over four weeks once your application is submitted. The steps to becoming a private detective or investigator can be found on the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) Private Investigator license application.

    Process Server

    Many bail fugitive recovery agents in California also work as process servers in the judicial system in order to supplement income. To work as a process server in California, you must register with the county or counties in which you wish to serve. Registration documents are available from the County Clerk/Recorder’s office. You will also need to complete a fingerprint-based background check, post a professional bond, and pay a registration fee.

    Training and Education Options in California

    While no formal education is required in the state of California for bail fugitive recovery agents or private investigators, it is recommended to get a degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, political science, or criminal law. Many schools in California offer two-year associate degrees or four-year bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and related fields. Some police academies offer courses for those outside of the law enforcement field, and you may find training there to be helpful for your career. Again, while a degree is not required for bounty hunting, it could increase your chances of securing work as a new bail fugitive recovery agent by setting you apart from the competition. Below are some programs in California offering two-year law enforcement degrees with a police academy:

    Butte College Public Safety Training Center
    3536 Butte Campus Dr
    Oroville, CA 95965

    Rio Hondo Regional Training Center
    3600 Workman Mill Rd
    Whittier, CA 90601

    San Diego Regional Public Safety Training Institute
    10440 Black Mountain Rd
    San Diego, CA 92126-2999

    Finding Work

    After you have completed the above steps to become a bail fugitive recovery agent, it will be up to you to find work. Since the field of bounty hunting is heavily reliant on who you know, it will pay off in the long run to network and introduce yourself to prospective clients (bail bondsmen). You may even consider connecting with a more senior bounty hunter to see if he or she might be willing to mentor you. As an apprentice or mentee of that person, you may be invited to accompany them in the fugitive recovery process. This will not only allow you to meet and interact with people which could later lead to more full-time employment, but it will also serve as on-the-job training, which will prove invaluable as you build your career.

    Featured Bail Agents in California

    For California bounty hunters, bail agents, also called bail bondsmen, are the most common prospective employers. According to the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS), there are 38 member agents in the state. Below is a list of some featured agents, selected because they are in larger cities, have a website, and/or have positive customer reviews featured in search results.

    Acme Bail Bonds
    205 S Broadway
    Ste 620
    Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Allergic to Handcuffs Bail Bonds
    3026 Midway Dr
    Ste D
    San Diego, CA 92110

    Bail Bond Woman
    San Diego, CA 92122

    Bail Bonds Direct
    2311 17th St
    Santa Ana, CA 92705

    Big Boy Bail Bonds
    15233 Ventura Blvd
    Ste 500
    Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

    Creative Bail Bonds
    5958 Van Nuys Blvd
    Van Nuys, CA 91401

    JM Bail Bonds
    338 Jackson St
    Ste 4
    Hayward, CA 94544

    Le Bail Bonds
    1049 E Santa Clara St
    San Francisco, CA 95116

    Lil’ Zeke’s Bail Bonds
    14507 Sylvan St
    Van Nuys, CA 91411

    To find even more bail agents and bondsmen in your area, use the Member Search tool on the PBUS website.

    Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in California

    Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently offer data for bail fugitive recovery agents, we use the data for private investigators as a logical proxy. According to the BLS, California has the most private investigators of any state, with 3,610 employed as of May 2021.1 The metropolitan area including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Glendale is the area with the highest level of private investigators employed in the nation.1 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayword is the highest-paying metro area for private detectives in the US, with an average annual salary of $75,860.1 The employment outlook for private detectives and investigators is also positive for California overall. According to Projections Central, through 2030, the profession is expected to grow by 13.5% in California, with 390 average annual openings (including replacements).3 This is on par with the growth projected for the profession in the United States as a whole during the same time period, at 13.1%.3

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed2Average Annual Salary2
    Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim1,320$62,490
    San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward630$75,860
    San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara140$74,850

    Additional Resources

    California is home to numerous bail bondsmen. You can start by looking up bail bondsmen in your city and state and reaching out to them to see if they have a need for new bail fugitive recovery agents.

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Private Detectives and Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
    3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm