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From Jail to Bondsman to Bounty Hunter to Jail

/ Mike Tayler

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The bondsman is often confused with the bounty hunter but while they sometimes find themselves working together they are in fact two distinctly different professions. The bail bonds agent helps those who have been incarcerated and charged with a crime earn their freedom while they are awaiting trial. While the bounty hunter is employed by the bail agent in the event that one of his clients decides to disappear while out on bail.

Can Someone be Both Bondsman and Bounty Hunter?

Sometimes when a client skips bail the bail bonding agent will engage in the initial attempt to track them down. However, any such efforts are usually confined to making phone calls and perhaps visiting the fugitive’s residence to see if perhaps they suffered an accident or have fallen ill. If it seems likely that the missing person has fled and is attempting to evade the law the bail bondsman will then enlist the services of the bounty hunter. While theoretically there is nothing preventing someone from being both a bail agent and a fugitive recovery agent (bounty hunter) the fact is the jobs require two different skillsets and two different temperaments.

Passing the Baton

To put it succinctly the bail bonding agent gets people out of jail while a bounty hunter puts people in jail. In that sense they seem like two sides of the same coin. But notion that the two jobs overlap isn’t really accurate. It’s more like one picks up where the other leaves off. That is, the bail bonds agent works with the friend or loved one of the accused to ensure their timely release from custody. If the accused then flees after being released the bail agent hands off responsibility for the new fugitive to the bounty hunter who tracks down him down and returns him to jail.

It’s just one of several such handoffs that comprise the criminal justice system. Other examples include:

  • The police who arrest suspects and turn them over to the courts for trial
  • The courts who convict a defendant and then turn him over to the penal system to serve his sentence and
  • The penal system which turns inmates over to probation officers after their release.

Can Anyone Become a Bounty Hunter?

The title “Bounty Hunter” resonates in the American psyche with associations that have their roots buried deep in the mythology of the Old West. They are often thought of as the ultimate antihero: part mercenary, part lawman, all tough guy. But in fact, while many fugitive recovery agents are indeed both physically and mentally tough, the job is often anything but romantic and often involves long hours tracking down leads that go nowhere and perhaps having to gang-tackle a large fugitive who may be waiting in line at McDonald’s.

Still, there is the potential to make a decent living if one were inclined to pursue a career in fugitive recovery. However, it’s something of a myth that just anyone can become a bounty hunter. As is the case with bail bonding agents there are definite criteria and a number of steps that must be taken before you can get a license to operate as a bounty hunter in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County or Denver County .

How to Become a Bounty Hunter in Colorado

If working closely with bail agents and pursuing fugitives into fast food restaurants in neighboring states interests you, you may have what it takes to be a bounty hunter. Colorado however has very hard and fast rules governing who can be a bounty hunter and a well-established process for becoming one.

Step 1: Meet the requirements - To become a bounty hunter in Colorado you must first:

  • Be fingerprinted
  • Submit to and pass a background check.
  • Have a record free of felonies.

Step 2: Complete the training - The State of Colorado requires prospective bounty hunters to submit to the following training:

  • 16 hours of training on bail recovery.
  • 8 hours of training on bail bonds in Colorado.
  • 50 hours of casualty pre-licensing classes

Step 3: Take the exam - The State of Colorado requires that:

  • Aspiring bounty hunters pay a fee and take the casualty insurance exam.

Step 4: Apply for a license - The State of Colorado requires all bounty hunters to be licensed. To obtain the license you must pay a fee and meet all the other requirements laid out above. Once properly licensed you will be able to pursue work.

How to Obtain Work

Becoming a bounty hunter is not terribly difficult. It does however favor those with a certain temperament. Nonetheless, if you have met all the requirements and become a licensed bounty hunter your next challenge will be getting work. There are essentially two ways a bounty hunter obtains work. Either he A) is employed by a bail agent directly or he B) works as an independent contractor. Option B is potentially more lucrative but requires more work, a certain amount of business savvy and connections.

The Bottom Line

Bail bonding and bounty hunting are related but separate professions. Nonetheless if you want to be a bounty hunter in Jefferson County, Arapahoe Count or Denver County you’ll need to take courses in and pass the exam to become a bail bonds agent. Don’t kid yourself however, being a modern bounty hunter is an often boring, often dangerous job that is not for the shy or faint of heart.

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