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Tennessee Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

Tennessee has a population of over 6.5 million people.1 The state allows but does not license bounty hunters to apprehend fugitives who have skipped bail. Bounty hunters in the state must be employed by a licensed professional bondsman. Chapter 40-11-318 of the Tennessee Annotated Code provides information on the requirements to become a bounty hunter in the state. Bounty hunters in Tennessee work as agents of professional bondsmen to find and return defendants who have “skipped” bail. If you’re interested in a career as a bounty hunter in Tennessee, read this guide to learn more about the process.

Requirements for Prospective Bail Recovery Agents in Tennessee

Although the profession is not licensed, the state has identified some minimum requirements that hopeful bounty hunters must meet. To become employed as a bounty hunter in Tennessee, you must:

  • Be a resident of the state of Tennessee and a US citizen
  • Have no felony convictions

Steps to a Career as a Bounty Hunter in Tennessee

The process to becoming a bounty hunter in Tennessee is quite simple; you must have the proper training and complete a criminal background check. Bounty hunters in the state of Tennessee must work for a professional bail bondsman. For a fee paid by the bail bondsman, bounty hunters apprehend fugitives who have failed to appear in court. In Tennessee, the steps to becoming a bounty hunter are as follows:

1. Complete the required training.

The state of Tennessee requires all bounty hunters to complete a training course on the bail system. Bounty hunter training will typically include surveillance techniques, interviewing skills, investigative methods, and laws and rules relating to bail recovery in Tennessee. Upon completing the training class, you will receive a pocket card certifying that you have completed the mandatory training. In addition to the required training course, it could also benefit your career to obtain a certificate or two-year degree in criminal justice or a related field. A degree in criminal justice focuses on real-world applications and practical skills related to the legal system.

2. Submit to a criminal background check.

To “hunt” fugitives in Tennessee, you must have a clean criminal history. The state of Tennessee verifies this by conducting state and federal criminal background checks. You must go to your local sheriff’s office to be fingerprinted and to request a criminal background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Per the Tennessee Annotated Code, the sheriff may charge no more than $200 per background check.

3. Begin working as a bounty hunter.

After passing the background check and obtaining the required training, you will become eligible to work as a bounty hunter in Tennessee. To lawfully catch fugitives, you must have credentials from a professional bail bondsman in Tennessee certifying that you are working on his or her behalf. Credentials could be an affidavit certifying that you are working with a bail bondsman or employment papers. You must also carry with you a pocket card showing that you completed the required training and a certified copy of the bond. It is recommended that you contact the local sheriff’s office for assistance prior to chasing and apprehending a fugitive, for your own safety and to ensure you are following the rules of arrest.

To stay current on laws and changes in the bail system, bounty hunters must take eight hours of continuing education (CE) each year. Bounty hunters can register for CE credits with the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents (TAPBA). As of April 2016, the fee for CE for bounty hunters was $240.

Related Careers

Many bounty hunters supplement their income with similar jobs when not hunting a fugitive. Jobs that bounty hunters may pursue include private investigator (PI) jobs or working as a process server. If you are interested in working in either of these professions, you’ll need to understand the state’s requirements.

Private Investigator/ Private Detective

In Tennessee, private investigators or private detectives (PDs) are licensed by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. private investigators work for clients to look into their legal, financial, and personal matters. To become licensed, you must:

  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Be a US citizen
  • Not have been declared incompetent due to mental defect or disease by any court
  • Not have dependence on alcohol or any other narcotics addiction
  • Submit to a criminal background check

As of April 2016, the license and application fees for PIs in Tennessee were $250. For more information on becoming a PI in Tennesse, or to apply, visit the forms and downloads page of the Department’s website.

Process Server

A process server works for the court system to file legal papers, serve documents to parties involved in a lawsuit, and retrieve documents as needed. Process servers in Tennessee are not required to be licensed. If you’re interested in becoming a process server, you must be at least 18 years of age and US citizen. For more information, visit your county clerk’s office.

Training and Education Options in Tennessee

Before working in the field, bounty hunters should have a good understanding of the criminal justice system in Tennessee. To ensure that you comprehend the laws as they relate to bail and civil rights of the accused, you should consider obtaining a two- or four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field. Many schools in the state offer associate degrees in criminal justice. Possessing a degree will show employers that you take your career seriously. Here are a few schools in Tennessee that offer certificate programs or associate degrees in criminal justice.

Cleveland State Community College
3535 Adkisson Dr
Cleveland, TN 37312
http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu

Columbia State Community College
795 Main St
Clifton, TN 38425
http://www.columbiastate.edu

Volunteer State Community College
150 Laureate Ave
Springfield, TN 37172
http://www.volstate.edu

Finding Work

Bounty hunting is a field in which networking will be critical to your success. To find work, you should know of some existing bail bondsmen and feel comfortable reaching out to let them know you are available for work. The Professional Bail Agents of the US lists 20 member bail bondsmen working in Tennessee. To further increase your chances at finding steady work, join local bail bond associations like TAPBA to meet mentors and to find job shadowing opportunities.

To locate even more bail agents in Tennessee, you can use the Find a Bail Agent tool on the PBUS website.

Featured Bail Bond Agents in Tennessee

Listed below are some of the most well-known and top-rated bail bond agents in Tennessee. Use this list to start to reach out to potential employers.

A-1 Bonding Company
2345 E Magnolia Ave
Knoxville, TN 37917
http://a1bondingtn.com

Able Bonding Co
504 3rd Ave N
Nashville, TN 37201

Alpha Omega Bail Bond Company Inc
201 N 4th St
Memphis, TN 38105

Bail U Out Bonding
306 Gay St, Ste G-2
Nashville, TN 37201
http://bailuoutbonding.com

Free U Bail Bonds
1103 Sevier Ave
Knoxville, TN 37920
http://freeubail.com

Grumpy’s Bail Bonds
117 Union St
Nashville, TN 37201
http://www.grumpysbailbonds.com

M & M Bail Bond Co
144 N 3rd St
Memphis, TN 38103
http://www.memphisbailbondservice.com

Memphis Bonding
279 Exchange Ave
Memphis, TN 38109
http://www.memphisbonding.com

Smiley Bail Bonds Company
306 Gay St, Ste 204
Nashville, TN 37201
http://www.smileybonding.com

Sanford & Sons Bail Bonds Inc
318 Winona St
Knoxville, TN 37917
http://sanfordandsonsbailbonds.com

Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in Tennessee

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data for bounty hunters, so we use data for private investigators as a proxy due to the similarity in job functions. As of 2015, 590 PIs were employed in Tennessee and they earned an average annual salary of $50,430.2 The state is also in the top five paying states in the nation for private investigators in nonmetropolitan areas ($36,760).3 Jobs for private investigators in Tennessee are projected to increase by 33.8%, or 20 average job openings per year.4

City or Metropolitan Area Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Knoxville 260 $62,170
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin 50 $59,700
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 180 N/A*

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.2
*Estimate not available from the BLS.

Additional Resources

Check out these two associations in Tennessee to help build and grow your network.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Tennessee: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/47,00
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Tennessee: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm