Washington DC Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

Due to the legal structure of the bail system in Washington DC, there is little need or demand for private or commercial bail. Though the law permits licensed bail bondsmen to issue private bonds if approved by the court in individual cases, in the vast majority of circumstances, defendants are released on a non-financial or cash basis. Additionally, there is no statute that allows licensing of individual fugitive recovery agents, though it is assumed through common law and precedent that where permitted, a licensed bail bondsman may act as a recovery agent. Due to these circumstances, it is recommended that those who are interested in fugitive recovery careers in DC instead seek to become private investigators, who are known in DC as private detectives. Private detectives perform similar work investigating legal, financial, and personal matters and may also assist in tracking bond fugitives. Continue reading below to find out more about the licensing process for private detectives in Washington DC.

Requirements for Prospective Private Detectives in Washington DC

Private detectives in DC must be licensed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration (DCRA/OPLA). To qualify for licensure, candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and legally permitted to work in the US
  • Not have any felony convictions within the preceding two years, nor any misdemeanor convictions within the preceding year

Continue reading to learn more about the process to become a private detective in Washington DC.

Steps to a Career as a Private Investigator in Washington DC

If you meet the minimum requirements above, you are ready to begin the process to become a licensed private detective in DC. To help you start your career, we have outlined the below step-by-step guide.

1. Obtain the appropriate training or experience.

While DCRA/OPLA has not set specific training or experience requirements for prospective private detectives, it is strongly recommended that those pursuing this career pursue formal training or education to hone their investigative skills and legal knowledge. A degree in criminal justice or a related field can provide you with a competitive edge in seeking employment. Information about available programs in the DC area is listed further below in this guide.

Training can also make you aware of the rules and laws specific to DC. For example, there are no circumstances under which a private detective may carry a firearm or other weapon while working in the district. In addition, services such as protection or bodyguard services are not permitted. Be sure to learn all applicable laws before embarking on your career.

2. Complete a criminal background check.

DCRA/OPLA requires all prospective private detectives to complete a fingerprint-based background check through the Metropolitan Police Department Security Officers’ Management Branch (SOMB). Fingerprinting takes approximately 15 minutes and can be scheduled online.

3. Apply for a license.

If you meet the basic qualifications, you may submit an application for a private detective’s license. The license application must be completed in full and sent to Pearson VUE, which has been contracted to oversee the security licensing process on behalf of DCRA/OPLA. The application must be accompanied by two passport-type photos and all supporting forms outlined in the application packet. Applications or other materials sent to DCRA/OPLA in error may cause delays in the licensing process.

4. Receive your license and keep it active.

Once you receive your DC private detective license, it is valid until the next succeeding October 31st. To renew, you must complete an application online through Pearson VUE.

Related Careers

Due to the irregular nature of private detective work, private detectives often work in related careers to earn supplemental income. A common secondary source of work for private detectives is process serving.

Process Servers

Process servers are appointed by courts to deliver legal documents to individuals who must be served in person. Process servers must be at least 18 years of age and are not required to be licensed in Washington DC. For more information and career opportunities, contact the District of Columbia Courts.

Training and Education Options in Washington DC

Although private detectives in DC are not required to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to become licensed, doing so can provide valuable qualifications in a competitive job market. Earning a formal education can also build your investigative skills. Listed below are a few schools to consider that offer criminal justice and related degree programs.

American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

Trinity Washington University
125 Michigan Ave NE
Washington, DC 20017

University of the District of Columbia
4200 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

Finding Work

In addition to earning a formal education, you may also wish to consider internship opportunities or seek out an experienced mentor to help you learn the ropes. Experienced investigative professionals can also introduce you to other professional contacts to build your network and earn referrals. To help you get started, below we’ve listed a few highly-rated private detective agencies in DC.

Featured Private Detective Agencies in Washington DC

The Bucksell Group
5 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

Capitol Inquiry, Inc.
722 12th St, NW 4th Fl
Washington, DC 20005

Capitol Process Services, Inc.
1827 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Striker-Pierce, LLC
901 King St #101
Alexandria, VA 22314

Private Detective Salary and Outlook in Washington DC

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary or employment data for private detectives. To help you understand professional demand and employment outlooks, we have used the similar career of public sector detectives and criminal investigators. You should note, however, that while public sector careers can serve as a proxy, the salaries and benefits can vary widely from those typical for private sector work. According to the BLS, as of 2015 there were 2,590 detectives and criminal investigators working in DC, with an average annual salary of $119,280.1

City or Metropolitan AreaNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
District of Columbia2,590$119,280
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Division4,370$117,230

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.1

Additional Resources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, District of Columbia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm