Pennsylvania Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps
Pennsylvania has a population of more than 12.7 million people.1 The state has the highest-paid private detectives in non-metropolitan areas ($55,780) and has the fourth-highest level of employment for private detectives in the US (1,560).2 Though many work in the state, Pennsylvania is relatively silent on the rules and restrictions for fugitive recovery agents, a.k.a. bounty hunters. Pennsylvania allows the practice of bounty hunting in the apprehension of fugitives, but bounty hunters must be employed by a licensed professional bail bondsman. To learn more about the basic requirements and process for becoming a bounty hunter in Pennsylvania, read the guide below.
Requirements for Prospective Bounty Hunters in Pennsylvania
As of early 2017, Pennsylvania law set no specific requirements for bounty hunters in the state. As a result, bounty hunters in Pennsylvania are not currently required to become licensed, although in recent legislative sessions efforts have been made to more tightly regulate the profession. However, you may be interested in becoming licensed as a professional bondsman through the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, especially if you wish to work independently. Only licensed bondsmen can issue bail bonds and direct the recovery of “skips” from bail in the state.
Steps to a Career as a Bail Fugitive Recovery Agent in Pennsylvania
Although there are no required steps to becoming a fugitive recovery agent in Pennsylvania due to the state’s lack of bail agent licensing, it is recommended that prospective bounty hunters gain some formal education and experience in order to be successful in this career. To be hired as a bounty hunter, candidates should also be at least 18 years of age and have no felony convictions.
1. Obtain the appropriate training.
While there is no formal training requirement for prospective Pennsylvania bail agents, those who wish to carry a firearm while performing bounty hunting tasks must complete firearms training and registration through the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to be in compliance with Lethal Weapons Training Act 235. PSP training and registration certifies agents to carry a lethal weapon (including a firearm, or any other instrument or material that is capable of causing great bodily harm or death). To become certified, fugitive recovery agents must complete a program from a certified school, apply, and pay the $50 fee.* Applicants must be fingerprinted ($27.50 fee*) and undergo physical and psychological exams for certification.
*All fees are current as of February 2016.
2. Identify a mentor.
Especially in states where there is no formal education requirement for bounty hunters, identifying a mentor with experience in fugitive recovery is an essential step to learning the tools of the trade. Many local bondsmen and schools offer bail enforcement training courses. You might also consider earning a two- or four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field to bolster your credentials.
3. Begin working as a bounty hunter.
Once you have acquired the skills needed to work in fugitive recovery, you are ready to start seeking work with licensed bail bond agencies. You should also work to develop relationships with local law enforcement agencies to avoid suspicion regarding your activities. Having strong relationships with law enforcement can also lead to additional professional assistance with your fugitive recovery tasks.
4. Consider an insurance license to work independently.
While Pennsylvania bounty hunters do not have to be licensed, bail bond agencies are licensed through the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Pennsylvania’s bail bond producer laws are commonly interpreted to mean that a bail bond agency takes responsibility for the professional actions of its agents. Therefore, while bail bond agents frequently work on a freelance basis, earning a professional bail bondsman’s license can enable you to work on a more independent basis. To learn more about the requirements for a bail bondsman’s license in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website.
Most bounty hunters are self-employed, meaning they don’t receive a regular salary and their income is based on how much work local bail bondsmen send their way. To supplement their income and to gain valuable experience, many bounty hunters work in similar professions such as private detectives or process servers. Read below to learn a more about both professions and how those professions are regulated in Pennsylvania.
Private Investigator/Private Detective
A private investigator (PI) or private detective (PD) provides specific information or intelligence to his or her client in exchange for a fee. The information can be legal, financial, personal, or business related. According to the Private Detective Act of 1953, the state requires that private investigators be registered at the state level, and you must also be licensed by your county clerk to practice as a PI or PD.
State regulations mandate that PIs and PDs in Pennsylvania must be at least 25 years of age and have no felony convictions. PIs and PDs must also generally have previous experience working for a detective or law enforcement agency. They cannot have pled or been found guilty of any of the following offenses:
- Unlawful entry of a building
- Aiding an escape from prison
- Buying stolen property
- Committing simple assault
- Illegal use/carry of a firearm
- Making threats of terrorism
- Possessing instruments of a burglar
- Possession or distribution of narcotic drugs
- Reckless endangerment
- Soliciting a person to commit a lewd act
Because licensure actually takes place at the county level, fees and other requirements may vary.
Several states allow independent process servers to “serve” others with legal papers relating to a case. In Pennsylvania (231 PA Code, Rule 400), members of the sheriff’s department are the primary process servers of the state. An adult age 18 or older may serve process for civil actions, partitions, and declaratory judgments. Process servers in Pennsylvania are not required to be licensed. Visit the The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania for more information on becoming a process server.
Training and Education Options in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require formal education for bounty hunters. Still, there are many educational opportunities offered throughout the state that can benefit your career as a bounty hunter. You should look for two-year criminal justice programs or other certificate programs. This additional education will help you understand criminal justice issues and how to deal within them legally, and may increase your chances at landing a job. Here are some schools that offer criminal justice programs in Pennsylvania.
Allentown Police Academy
435 Hamilton St
Allentown, PA 18101
Berks Technical Institute
2205 Ridgewood Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610
Central Pennsylvania College
600 Valley Rd
Summerdale, PA 17093
Lackawanna College at Hazelton
145 East Broad St
Hazleton, PA 18201
To be a successful bounty hunter, you must know how to search for steady work. Bounty hunters just starting out should look for a mentorship or an apprenticeship with a more experienced agent. Another way to find work is by joining bounty hunter and private investigation associations. There is an active association in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Investigators
PO Box 651
Lemont, PA 16851
Check out the Professional Bail Agents of the US directory for bail agents in Pennsylvania to find job and mentorship opportunities.
Featured Bail Agents in Pennsylvania
To give you a head start, we’ve listed some prominent, well-known, or highly-rated bail bondsmen in Pennsylvania.
ABC Bail Bonds
49 N 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
ASAP Bail Bonds
Trafford, PA 15085
Bob Marcus Bail Bonds
1701 Galen Rd
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Cutting Edge Bail Bonds
6 Waldorf St
Pittsburgh, PA 15214
Greg’s Bail Bonds
4227 N 2nd St
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Liberty Bail Bonds
1139 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Philadelphia Bail Bonds
1700 Market St Suite 1005
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tri-County Bail Bonding
17 N Duke St
Lancaster, PA 17602
For more information on bail agents and bounty hunters in your area, use the Find a Bail Agent tool on the PBUS website.
Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in Pennsylvania
When embarking on a new career, you should know the salary outlook and job growth opportunities. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary data for bounty hunters, but because the career of a bounty hunter and private detective are similar, we use private detective data as a proxy. In Pennsylvania, 1,560 private detectives were employed in 2014 and they earned an average annual salary of $48,100.3 The state has the fourth-highest level of employment for PDs in the US and the highest salary for PDs in non-metropolitan areas.2 Employment opportunities for PDs in Pennsylvania are projected to increase by 11% through 2022 with 100 job openings per year.4 Based on the projections and salary outlook, Pennsylvania can be a great place to start a bounty hunting career.
|City or Metropolitan Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2
- Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Investigators – A network for private agents that provides investigative resources, best practices, and networking opportunities.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Pennsylvania: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/PA,WY/PST045216
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm