Kentucky Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    With a population of 4.5 million people, the state of Kentucky does not have a commercial bail bond system; per Kentucky Statute 431.510, working as a bail bond agent or bounty hunter is outlawed in the state. The commercial bail bond system was abolished in Kentucky in 1976 and the state created the Pretrial Services Agency, which upholds the principle that individuals who are accused of committing a crime are innocent until proven guilty and thereby deserve the right to reasonable bail. This agency was created largely to ensure that people with fewer means to pay commercial bail bond agents receive the same rights and treatment (i.e. freedom from jail) as people with more financial resources. By using pretrial services, defendants pay their bond to the agency and receive all or a portion of it back when the trial is over, as long as they show up in court. To deliver these services, the State of Kentucky uses pretrial officers, also referred to as pretrial specialists. Below you will find information on how to become a pretrial officer.

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    Requirements for Prospective Pretrial Officers in Kentucky

    Pretrial officers are employed by the Pretrial Services Agency. To apply, you must meet the following basic requirements:

    • Be 21 years of age or older
    • Be a US citizen or resident alien
    • Have no felony convictions
    • Have a bachelor’s degree (preferred), or an associate’s degree with two years of related experience, or four years of related work experience with a high school diploma

    Steps to a Career as a Pretrial Officer in Kentucky

    A pretrial officer will initially interview a defendant and recommend him or her for bail. Pretrial officers also give recommendations for the pretrial diversion program, which offers drug and alcohol treatment, counseling, advice on life skills such as parenting and financial counseling, education programs, and community service opportunities. As a pretrial officer, you will monitor the defendant and ensure that they are receiving program services and that they will show up for their court hearing. Pretrial officers must follow four basic steps in order to work in Kentucky. It is important to understand that a pretrial officer is an officer of the court, not a peace officer.

    1. Gain the required education and experience.

    The Kentucky Court System prefers that pretrial officers have an associate degree or higher. Criminal justice is a popular area of study for those seeking a degree before becoming a pretrial officer of the court. You can apply with a high school diploma, but you will need to have at least four years of related job experience. Eligible experience could include experience as a parole officer or in the parole system, private investigation experience, or other work experience in the criminal justice system.

    2. Submit an application.

    Once you meet the education and experience requirement, you can apply to the court for an open position. Applications must be submitted online. Pretrial officer applicants will need a copy of a valid state ID and will have to pass a background check and fingerprinting.

    3. Interview with the court.

    Although not guaranteed, if you meet the required education and experience and submit an application, you should receive an interview with the court for the pretrial officer position. Prepare for the interview by reading about the responsibilities of pretrial officers and understanding how pretrial services work with the court. Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be energetic to give the best possible interview.

    4. Begin working as a pretrial officer.

    After you have successfully completed the interview and have been hired, you will begin working as a pretrial officer. Pretrial officers work in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties and are assigned to one of the 49 local program districts. It is typical for pretrial officers to be on call throughout the week.

    Related Careers

    Working as a pretrial officer is a full-time job. However, there are related careers that may be of interest. Some jobs that can be exciting and allow you to work at your own pace include private investigators and process servers. Below is a brief summary of each profession and the respective state requirements.

    Private Investigator/ Private Detective

    Private investigators (PIs), also known as private detectives (PDs), research legal, financial, and personal matters for their clients. They often use interview skills and must monitor people to find the information they are looking for. PIs in Kentucky must be licensed by the Board of Licensure for Private Investigators (KPI). Private investigators in the state must:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Be a US citizen or resident alien
    • Complete a criminal background check (including three fingerprint cards)
    • Pay the $51.25 fingerprint fee, $100 application fee, and $300 license fee (as of July 2022)

    After applying, if your application is complete, you will be given permission to sit for the required PI licensure exam. To apply and for more information, visit the KPI website.

    Process Server

    A process server works for the court system to file legal papers and serve legal documents to parties involved in a lawsuit. The state of Kentucky does not require process servers to be licensed. To work in the state, process servers must be 18 years of age. Contact your district court for information on how to get started.

    Training and Education Options in Kentucky

    Pretrial officers and private investigators can benefit from getting a formal education in criminal justice. You should consider an associate degree in criminal justice or a related field. With a criminal justice degree, you will better understand the legal system, be able to deal with various social problems, and improve your decision-making and critical thinking skills. By having a formal education, you will show potential employers that you take your career seriously and are well-equipped for the job. To get you started, here are some schools in Kentucky that offer associate degrees and certificates in criminal justice:

    Eastern Kentucky University
    521 Lancaster Ave
    Richmond, KY 40475

    Sullivan University
    3101 Bardstown Rd
    Louisville, KY 40205

    University of Pikeville
    147 Sycamore St
    Pikeville, KY 41501

    Western Kentucky University
    1906 College Heights Blvd
    Bowling Green, KY 42101

    Finding Work

    Finding work as a pretrial officer is different from finding work as a private investigator. Pretrial officers must work with the pretrial agency and are assigned defendants to work with. To ensure that you understand the profession and are doing the best possible job, identify a mentor who has experience working with defendants.

    Featured Private Investigator Agencies in Kentucky

    If you choose to get experience or pursue a career as a private investigator, see below for some top-rated private investigator agencies in Kentucky.

    Beacon Investigative Solutions
    700 Scout St
    Covington, KY 41011

    Bluegrass Private Investigators
    333 W Vine St
    Lexington, KY 40507

    Capital Security & Investigations
    3167 Custer Dr
    Lexington, KY 40517

    Confidential Investigations & Surveillance Inc.
    12123 Shelbyville Rd
    Ste 102
    Louisville, KY 40243

    Insight 2 Day Investigations
    5320 Valley Station Rd
    Louisville, KY 40258

    Investigative Consultants, Inc.
    PO Box 54262
    Lexington, KY 40555

    Whitfield Enterprises LLC
    473 Whitfield Dr
    Lexington, KY 40515

    Pretrial Officer Salary and Outlook in Kentucky

    While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report on pretrial officers, it does provide data for private investigators, which we use as a proxy. In 2021, private investigators earned an annual average of $51,110.2 It is projected that through 2030, jobs for private investigators in Kentucky will increase by 8.3%.3

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed2Average Annual Salary2
    Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN460$54,570
    Louisville/Jefferson County190$51,190

    Additional Resources

    The resources listed below may help you in your search to find work as a pretrial officer or private detective in Kentucky.

    1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Kentucky: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/KY/PST0452212. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Kentucky: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ky.htm
    3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm