Prior to 1996, bounty hunters in Florida were licensed as runners and legally authorized to take bond jumpers into custody on behalf of the bail bonds companies they worked for. Under current Florida statutes, bounty hunters, or runners as they are known in Florida, are required to be licensed as bail agents. Without a bail agent license, bounty hunting is now strictly prohibited in the state.
In order to become a bail agent in Florida with legal authorization to act as a bounty hunter, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
- Determine Eligibility
- Meet Educational and Training Requirements in Florida
- Pass the Florida State Licensing Exam
- Apply for a Florida Bail Agent Limited Surety License
- Find Employment in Florida
In the state of Florida, bounty hunters are designated as bail agents by the Florida Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services. Although independent bounty hunting is not allowed in Florida, bail agents do have the right to pursue and arrest fugitives. In order to arrest, apprehend and transport wanted fugitives, bail agents must fulfill a variety of training and licensing requirements. Without a license from the Florida Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services, however, purported bounty hunters can be convicted of a class three felony.
In Florida, bail agents are restricted in who they are authorized to arrest. Bail agents must be employees of the company that issued the bail bond a fugitive has forfeited. Without this authorization from the company, the bail agent is not legally authorized to arrest the fugitive. In some cases, however, a bail company may issue a written authorization to a police officer or non-employee bail agent, as long as the bail agent is employed by another Florida bail company. Out of state bounty hunters have very little authority in the state, and must have written the bail bond to possess arrest authority.
Step 1: Determine Eligibility
The Florida Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services requires that all bail agents meet the following standards for licensure:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must possess a high school diploma or GED
- Must be a U.S. citizen or legal alien with work authorization
- Must be a resident of the state of Florida
- Cannot be guilty of a felony crime or crime punishable by one year or more of imprisonment
- Must possess a business address in the state
- Must pass the bail bond agent licensing exam
- Must complete the 120 hour pre-licensing course with an 80 percent to pass
- Must produce three character references from the same county where business is located
Step 2: Complete Educational and Training Requirements in Florida
Bail Agents in Florida who possess a college degree typically have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in one of these fields of study:
- Criminal justice
- Law enforcement
- Police studies
The 120 hour pre-licensing course is a rigorous program that is essential to passing the state licensing exam. This course can be found at a variety of local and online colleges, training academies and private schools. The course covers topics including:
- Licensing and appointment of bail bond agents and runners
- Fundamentals of contracts
- Bail business operation
- Arrest and release
- The courts
- Regulation of bail bond agents
- Forfeitures and judgments
- Bail as surety
A score of 80 or higher is required to pass.
Bail bondsman license applicants must also be employed and sponsored by a bail company to obtain licensure. Candidates may find sponsorship through internships or paid employment.
Step 3: Take the Florida Bail Bond Agent Exam
The Florida Bail Bond Agent Exam is offered by the independent test provider Pearson Vue. The exam fee for this 60 multiple choice question, one hour exam is $42. Candidates may apply for the exam at the Florida Department of Financial Services website. Candidates may take the exam up to five times in one calendar year.
Step 4: Apply for a Florida Bail Agent Limited Surety License
In order to apply for a Florida bail bond agent license, candidates must complete the following procedure:
- Submit a signed and completed license application
- Pay the $50 license fee using a major credit card or eCheck
- Must provide fingerprints along with a $50.30 fingerprint fee
- Must submit three character references from residents of the county where bail employer resides
- Must provide passing scores from the bail bond licensing exam
- Must provide a certificate of completion from the 120 hour pre-licensing exam
The licensure period for bail bond agents is two years. To qualify for license renewal, agents must complete 14 hours of continuing education during the licensure period.
Step 5: Seek Employment in Florida
Since sponsorship is required to become licensed, most newly licensed bail agents in Florida join their sponsoring firm as employee. However, it is possible to go to work for another bail company to learn about the industry and develop a network of contacts in the insurance and financial sector.