California Bail Bondsmen and Bounty Hunters
For many people, the term “bounty hunter” evokes images from Wild West movies where
deputized citizens were given legal authority to bring back wanted individuals "dead or alive" in
return for a "handsome reward". Worse yet, is the image portrayed by the likes of “Dog” the
Bounty Hunter. This quasi fictional character which portends to be reality TV, gives the industry
a bad name. If all Bounty Hunters were that heavy-handed we’d all be sued for civil rights
violations! The scene and casting for this high-stakes drama has certainly changed but bounty
hunting is in fact still very much a part of the American system of justice today. In 1873 the US
Supreme Court defined the rights of bounty hunters as agents of bail bondsmen in the case of
Taylor v. Taintor. Hence the real name for bounty hunters is “bail fugitive recovery agents”.
The basis of bounty hunting is rooted in the bail bond process used in the United States. The
purpose of bail is to allow for the legal right of "innocent until proven guilty" guaranteed by the
Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution without incarceration of an individual prior
to determination of guilt or innocence. On the other side of the coin, the courts whose job it is to
enforce and administer the law need some guarantee that the accused will be present in court to
face charges and provide a defense.
Hence the bail schedule is set to reflect that balance between the risk of harm to society due to
the nature of the crime and the individual's legal rights. The bail process allows someone who
has been arrested to remain free by paying a fee to the courts. If that person violates the terms of
his bail, a bail agent will retrieve him and bring him back to police custody, hence the need for
bounty hunting. A bail bondsman can do their own bounty hunting or contract with an
individual or company that is licensed to provide bounty hunting services.
Some states require that bounty hunters be licensed, while other states only require that bounty
hunters register with them. Some states such as Kentucky and Oregon prohibit bounty hunters
entirely from making bail arrests.
In September 1999, California enacted law A 243 regulating bounty hunters, termed "bail
fugitive recovery persons" in the statute. This law added section 1299 to the California Penal
Code. The bail fugitive recovery person is defined as one who has written authorization by a bail
agent or surety contracted to investigate, monitor, locate, and arrest a bail fugitive for surrender
to appropriate authorities, or any person employed to assist in the arrest of such a fugitive.
CPC 1299 required special licensing and training to become a bounty hunter. California bounty
hunters needed a certification from the California Department of Insurance to operate.
Certification was granted only to those who could demonstrate they know the state laws and can
pass a background check.
Bail fugitive recovery agents must be 18 years old, have no felony convictions, complete a
specified training courses, and notify local law enforcement of their intent to apprehend a bail
fugitive no more than six hours before doing so. California bounty-hunting training courses can
be done on-line or at select, approved schools that focus on criminal justice. You must be 18 or
older to apply. The first step is to take a 12-hour course that covers bail education licensing
requirements. After this, you are required to apply for your bounty-hunting license and need to
score 70 percent or higher on the test.
Unfortunately, CPC 1299 had a sunset clause and the California State Legislature allowed it to
lapse. California no longer has control over the bounty hunters and the bail industry is in an
uproar over this. The legitimate bail agencies want to see restrictions and rules governing bounty
hunters. The industry in pleading with the state legislature to re-enact CPC 1299; for the
protection of public safety and common sense.
Orange County Bail Bonds, located across the street from the Orange County jail facility, is a
family owned and operated Orange County bail bond service and has been serving the bail bonds
needs of Californians and across the United States since 1963.