Washington Bounty Hunter Guide: Requirements and Steps

    In Washington, which has a population of 7.7 million people, the bounty hunting profession is regulated by the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL).1 Though the use of the term of “bounty hunter” is not strictly prohibited, the state uses the title “bail bond recovery agent” for those who work in bounty hunting. Bail bond recovery agents apprehend fugitives who have “skipped” bail. To learn more about the licensure requirements for bail bond recovery agents in Washington, continue reading this guide.

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    Requirements for Prospective Bounty Hunters in Washington

    It is unlawful to act as a bail bond recovery agent in Washington without holding a license. The DOL has developed minimum requirements for all bail bond recovery agents. If you wish to become licensed in Washington, you must:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Be a US citizen or resident alien
    • Have no felony or misdemeanor convictions that would interfere with your ability to act as a bail bond recovery agent
    • Have a high school diploma or GED, or three years of bail bond industry work experience

    Steps to a Career as a Bail Bond Recovery Agent in Washington

    If you meet the above basic standards, you are eligible to apply for licensure as a bail bond recovery agent in Washington. The bail bond recovery agent licensure process has four steps: you must have the appropriate experience, pass an examination, submit an application, and finally, receive your license. Read more about the steps to become a licensed bail bond recovery agent in Washington below.

    1. Gain the required experience.

    The Washington DOL requires bail bond recovery agents to have 32 hours of training. You must complete training in the following subjects:

    • Civil or criminal law
    • Field operations procedures
    • Firearms and defensive tools training

    Training in criminal or civil law may be completed formally, in a classroom setting, or through self-study. Field operations training must take place through private or public instruction; self-study is not allowed. If you have completed field operations training within the past six years (with a municipal, state, or federal law enforcement agency, or through any branch of the military as a peace officer), you will not have to complete additional training. Proof of completion of the training will be required with your application. You must be trained and certified to use a taser (X/M26), baton, and oleo capsicum (OC) resin (or “pepper”) spray. Your firearms training and certification must be completed by a Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) firearms instructor.

    All training requirements must be completed within 12 months of submitting your application. You must provide your training dates, the curriculum, and the certificate or transcript as proof of completion when you submit your application.

    2. Obtain a concealed pistol license.

    All bail bond recovery agents are required to have a concealed pistol license. Licenses are issued at either your county sheriff’s office (if you live in an unincorporated area) or your local police department or sheriff’s office (if you live in an incorporated city or town). You will be required to submit to a background check prior to receiving a concealed pistol license in Washington. Concealed pistol licenses are valid for five years. Fees will vary by municipality.

    3. Submit an application.

    To become a licensed bail bond recovery agent in Washington, you must complete the DOL application. As of May 2022, the fee for licensure in Washington was $450. Your application must include the following documents:

    • Proof of 32 hours of mandatory training including certifications in taser, baton, and oleo capsicum resin spray
    • The fingerprinting card for the criminal background check
    • A copy of your concealed pistol license
    • Copy of firearms certification from CJTC

    4. Take and pass the exam.

    After completing the required training and submitting your application, you must take and pass the bail bond recovery agent exam. The exam is a 50-question, multiple-choice exam. To pass, you must answer at least 85% of the questions correctly. The DOL will notify you to schedule the exam after your application and fees have been received.

    If you fail the exam on your first attempt, you may retake it by completing the bail bond recovery agent re-exam application and paying the $25 fee (as of May 2022).

    5. Receive your license.

    After completing the steps above and passing the exam, you will become a licensed bail bond recovery agent in Washington. Bail bond recovery agent licenses must be renewed each year; although there are continuing education requirements for bail bond agents, there are no continuing education requirements for bail bond recovery agents. As of May 2022, the fee to renew a bail bond recovery agent license was $475.

    Related Careers

    Bounty hunters may supplement their income by working as private investigators or process servers. You must have a certain set of skills to be successful as a bounty hunter, and those skills can be transferred to these two other professions to provide supplemental income during slower times. The following text provides a brief description of these two jobs and the requirements for each in Washington State.

    Private Investigator/Private Detective

    Private investigators (PIs) work for individuals or groups and investigate various types of information for their client. In Washington, PIs must be licensed by the Washington DOL. PI license applicants must be US citizens or resident aliens and at least 18 years of age if applying for an unarmed PI agency license. If you are applying for an armed PI Agency license, you must be at least 21 years of age. In both cases, you must be employed by a licensed PI agency. Prior to applying for an agency license, you must have three years of investigative experience and be able to obtain a certificate of liability insurance (or a $10,000 surety bond).

    Process Server

    Process servers serve legal documents and court actions to parties involved in a lawsuit or judgment. Process servers in Washington must be at least 18 years of age and must register with their county clerk’s office.

    Training and Education Options in Washington

    Bail recovery agents should look to increase their knowledge of the criminal justice field by obtaining a two- or four-year degree program in criminal justice or a related field. In addition to degree programs, some schools offer certificate programs. Pursuing a formal degree will give you a better understanding of the field and the legal system. Having formal education under your belt will also show bail bondsmen, your potential employers, that you are serious about your career. Below are a few schools in Washington that offer criminal justice programs.

    Bellevue College
    3000 Landerholm Cir SE
    Bellevue, WA 98007

    Everett Community College
    2000 Tower St
    Everett, WA 98201

    Gonzaga University
    502 E Boone Ave
    Spokane, WA 99202

    Pierce College–Fort Steilacoom
    9401 Farwest Dr SW
    Lakewood, WA 98498

    Finding Work

    As you embark on a career as a bail recovery agent, you must have a solid plan on how to acquire work. It is smart to try to build relationships with bail bondsmen and experienced bail enforcement agents. You may wish to find a mentor to show you the ropes of bounty hunting and try to identify any apprenticeship programs in Washington. Join bail bond associations in your area and attend open meetings and networking events. Lastly, be prepared to sell yourself to potential employers by showing them that your skills and experience make you the best fit for the job.

    Featured Bail Agents in Washington

    According to the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS) website, there are 11 member bail agents in Washington. Listed below are some of the most well-known and highly-rated bail bondsmen in Washington.

    11:11 Bail Bonds
    700 Prospect St
    Port Orchard, WA 98366

    A-Affordable Bail Bonds
    615 W 11th St
    Ste 100
    Vancouver, WA 98660

    All City Bail Bonds
    601 6th Ave
    Seattle, WA 98104

    A-Plus Bail Bonds
    701 W 11th St
    Vancouver, WA 98660

    Cascade Bail Bonds
    3118 Broadway
    Everett, WA 98201

    Pacific Northwest Bail Bonding
    321 Yesler Way
    Seattle, WA 98104

    Regan Bail Bonds
    612 W Evergreen Blvd
    Vancouver, WA 98660

    The Bail Co Bail Bonds
    521 Union Ave SE
    Olympia, WA 98502

    For even more bail agents in Washington, try out the PBUS Find a Bail Agent tool.

    Bounty Hunter Salary and Outlook in Washington

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data for bail recovery agents or bounty hunters, so we use data for private investigators (PIs) as a proxy. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area has one of the highest concentrations of private investigators in the nation.2 As of May 2021, Washington PIs earned an annual average salary of $69,990, with an estimated 530 working in the state.3 Projections estimate that jobs for private investigators will increase by 20.6% in Washington through 2030, with 400 average annual openings including replacements expected.4 The table below provides employment numbers and salary data for some of the largest cities or metro areas in Washington.

    City or Metropolitan AreaNumber Employed3Average Annual Salary3
    Spokane-Spokane Valley70$52,310

    Additional Resources

    Check out the following associations in Washington to grow your professional network and search for job opportunities.

    1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Washington: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/WA/PST045221
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Private Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Washington: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm
    4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm