When a defendant fails to appear in court after release on financial bail, their surety—the person guaranteeing their appearance—must pay the cash bond to the court. To avoid or mitigate financial liability, the surety can attempt to arrest and return the defendant. Sureties often work with a recovery agent, a person whose profession it is to lawfully apprehend fugitive defendants. Sureties transfer arrest authority to recovery agents by signing over to them a certified copy of the bond. Recovery agents, also called bounty hunters and bail enforcement agents, and how they arrest fugitive defendants, are subject to regulations provided by state law.
Standards and Licensure
At least 22 states require licenses for professional recovery agents. California and Kansas also have provisions that regulate recovery agents, but do not require licenses. California’s law mandates recovery agents carry certificates of completion for certain training courses and Kansas outlines several requirements to act as an “agent of a surety” including not having been convicted of enumerated crimes in the last 10 years.
In addition to license requirements, state statutes also regulate the conduct of recovery agents while executing their duties. Issues addressed in these laws include disclosure of association with bail agents, regulation of their attire while performing their duties, and their ability to enter private dwellings or property to make an arrest.