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Can a Felon Become a Fugitive Recovery Agent?

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There are many challenges for felons after their incarceration ends and they return to society. One of the biggest is finding a job, but there are resources available. Those with experience working in the legal field may want to consider a position as a fugitive recovery agent.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a fugitive recovery agent.

  • What is a Fugitive Recovery Agent?
  • What is Required to Become a Fugitive Recovery Agent?
  • How Much Does a Fugitive Recovery Agent Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Fugitive Recovery Agent?

A fugitive recovery agent apprehends those accused of a crime who are waiting for trial and free on bail but have skipped their appointed court date. A fugitive recovery agent acts as an agent of a bail bondsman who posts bail for someone that cannot afford to post bail for him or herself, providing enforcement for the private bail industry.

A fugitive recovery agent has different titles depending on the state:

  • Bounty hunter
  • Bail enforcement agent
  • Bail recovery agent
  • Surety recovery agent
  • Skip tracer
  • Bail bond enforcer

After being arrested and booked on suspicion of a crime, a court date and bail are typically set. A defendant is often released from custody upon posting bail. If that person does not appear in court as scheduled, the bond becomes due and an arrest warrant is issued with the accused becoming a bail fugitive for failure to appear.

If the accused uses a private bail bondsman, posts bail, and then misses a court date, a fugitive recovery agent will be used to track, arrest, and return the accused to court.

There are times when the accused works directly with the court and not a bail bondsman by paying fees and getting insurance, including collateral for failing to meet a trial date. If he or she then skips the trial date, government law enforcement will be responsible for apprehending the individual and a recovery agent would not be involved.

A fugitive recovery agent acts under the direction of a bail bondsman and not the state. Therefore, many civil safeguards protecting citizens will not be in effect for a bounty hunter, including:

  • Search and seizure
  • Self-incrimination
  • Right to counsel
  • Other protection

There are certain skills necessary for a bounty hunter to be successful:

  • Patience when dealing with an individual who has skipped a court date
  • Detail-oriented
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Understanding crimes, their description, and possible punishment
  • Ability to handle multiple assignments and to prioritize work

What is Required to Become a Fugitive Recovery Agent?

Anyone interested in a career as a bounty hunter must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be least 21 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED

Becoming a fugitive recovery agent is:

  • Regulated by license or registration in 24 states
  • Allowed with self-regulation in 18 states
  • Prohibited in 4 states
  • Unnecessary in 4 states that have no private bail system

All states except Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin have a certification process to become a bail bondsman. Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia restrict bounty hunting or have banned it altogether.

A fugitive recovery agent is trained in finding a defendant and may have previous experience in:

  • Law enforcement
  • The military
  • Criminal justice education
  • Peace officer training
  • Working as a private investigator

Training typically involves learning:

  • How to conduct an investigation arrest
  • Control techniques
  • Use of reasonable force
  • To track suspects
  • How bail bonds work

A bounty hunter receives compensation typically in a range of 10 to 25% of the value of a posted bond for finding, arresting, and returning the accused to court.

In many states there are typically three ways to become a fugitive recovery agent:

A candidate to become a fugitive recovery agent must:

  • Pass a criminal background investigation
  • Not be addicted to alcohol or drugs
  • Have no conviction for a Class A misdemeanor or felony
  • Have no Class B misdemeanors in the past five years
  • Be mentally competent
  • Able to legally operate a motor vehicle
  • Able to legally possess a firearm

A bounty hunter must complete a training program to become a certified peace officer in their state. This training can often last up to 16 weeks and usually includes lessons on:

  • Cultural diversity
  • Crisis intervention
  • Special investigation
  • State and federal laws
  • State code of criminal procedure
  • Search and seizure
  • Weapons
  • Defensive tactics
  • Civic process
  • Professionalism and ethics

Following the completion of formal training, the candidate must complete the exam for certification as a peace officer, a security officer, or a private investigator as part of the process of becoming a bounty hunter.

How Much Does a Fugitive Recovery Agent Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are currently approximately 15,000 bail bondsmen and bounty hunters. The average salary for a bounty hunter in 2015 was $30,000 annually. The top 10% of bail bondsmen and bounty hunters earn at least $80,000.

Geographic location and experience could have a significant impact on these earnings. A fugitive recovery agent in large cities – especially on the East and West coasts – tends to earn a higher salary.

This occupation is expected to show an 11% growth by 2024.

An Opportunity for Felons?

In order to become a fugitive recovery agent, an applicant must not have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude is one that violates accepted standards of the society or community.

Felonies in this category include:

  • Perjury
  • Tax evasion
  • Wire fraud
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Child abuse

Another challenge will be in finding a position as a bounty hunter. It’s important to be honest when applying for a job as a recovery agent. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check this constitutes fraud and is punishable by jail time. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in a career as a bounty hunter, it’s essential for felons to be honest about their background. They’re already seen as being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a fugitive recovery agent. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a major challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a bounty hunter. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting additional education could make the essential difference.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can also make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again, live an honest life, and achieve his or her goal no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a fugitive recovery agent with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Fugitive Recovery Agent?”

  1. I’ve done 9 years in State prison and none of the information about the felony I was involved in so therefore I’m assuming I could apply but where do I apply at education wise I’ve done college during my course of incarceration and my associates degree but I have a friend who is a bail bondsman/recovery agent do I applied directly to him or who do I apply with?

  2. I had a felony in Virginia but my civil rights restored by the governor of Virgina and my gun rights restored in Virginia circuit court, can I work as a fugitive recovery agent or bounty hunter in WV now?


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