Category Archives: Bounty Hunter

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How to Become a Bounty Hunter (First Hint: The Correct Term is Recovery Agent)

Jeff Downer  There seems to be a great deal of interest from people about becoming a bounty hunter.  It is not as simple a process as some may believe and the nature of the job is often misunderstood.  What follows is a description of the process here in Indiana and some thoughts about pursuing this type of work.

Perhaps the the first thing to understand is that within the commercial bail industry the term “Bounty Hunter” is discouraged.  The use of “Recovery Agent” is preferred and recognized as the professional designation for those who locate and apprehend fugitives for bail bond companies.

It should not be surprising that recovery agents and their activities are strictly regulated.  The work can at times be dangerous for the agent, the fugitive as well as the public. Almost every state mandates recovery agents to be licensed and the licensing requirements can vary greatly from state to state.  Below are the  licensing requirements per the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI):

All applications must include:

  1. A recent digital full face photograph and your signature on the specimen sheet to be included on your license.  If you prefer, pictures can be taken in our office by appointment only.
  2. Certified fingerprint card from local law enforcement, or a receipt from L-1 Identify Solutions showing that you have been fingerprinted.
  3. Recent Credit Bureau Report (Free):
  4. Criminal History Check completed by Indiana State Police.
  5. Photo copies of other Professional Licenses that you hold.
  6. Application fee of $650 (check or money order).
  7. Completion Certificate for 12 credit hours of Pre-Licensing Education.
  8. Passing test results.

In addition there is a $100 testing fee.

After meeting all of the requirements and assuming no disqualifying conditions exist, a license will be awarded.  For application forms and further information on recovery agent licensing, here is the link to the IDOI Recovery Agent licensing web page.  The Indiana recovery agent license must be renewed every two years by completing continuing education requirements and paying a $300 renewal fee.

Acquiring the license is just the first step.  Getting work comes next.  Any and all fugitives are not fair game for every recovery agent.  Agreements need to be made with the bonding companies seeking any particular fugitive.  Competition for these agreements can be fierce.  An aspiring agent needs to understand what the bonding companies are looking for in a recovery agent in order to develop working relationships with them.

Recovery is all about locating and apprehending fugitives, not confrontation and intimidation.  Bonding companies want recovery agents who understand concepts like:

  •   The importance of qualities like interpersonal skills and diligence instead of kicking in doors.
  •   High tech skills mean effective online skip tracing and not utilizing the latest in laser gun sights.
  •   Weapons and personal protection gear are intended to provide agent safety and are not a green light for aggressive high risk behavior.

Bottom line is bonding companies want agents who can work with law enforcement instead of being arrested by them.  Avoiding lawsuits is a best practice as well.

There is one final item bonding companies value and it is the most important: experience.  Gaining experience may not as difficult as it sounds.  Recovery work is often a team activity, allowing newly minted agents opportunities to find and work with proven recovery agents out in the field.

Posted in Bail, Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, Recovery Agent. Tagged with .

Bounty Hunters and Professionalism

Jeff Downer  As a bail professional I often find myself despairing over a never ending series of bounty hunter themed reality television programs hitting the airwaves.   During these programs, television production values and contrived scenarios trump depictions of responsibly conducted fugitive recovery operations.  Chief among these TV bounty hunters is Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter”.

Mr. Chapman first gained fame by seizing fugitive cosmetics heir Andrew Luster in Mexico.  Mr Luster had fled to Mexico while facing trial in California.  Since bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, Mr. Chapman was arrested while attempting to return Mr. Luster to the US.  Eventually Mr. Chapman posted bail and proceeded to flee the Mexican authorities, becoming a fugitive himself; an embarrassing status he maintained for years before eventually outlasting Mexico’s statue of limitations and having the case dropped.

In contrast to Mr. Chapman’s Mexican experience, I recently came across an account of Jim Elliot, a fugitive recovery agent from Utah, who helped organize a successful fugitive recovery effort in Mexico which involved both the Mexican and American law enforcement communities.

As I read the account and watched the accompanying video I could not help but be impressed by the professional and effective approach Mr. Elliot employed as opposed to the Keystone Cops style adventure of Mr. Chapman.  Mr. Elliot was even able to accompany Mexican police as they made the rather exciting fugitive apprehension instead of being arrested himself.  The complete news account may be found here.

If you find yourself watching bounty hunter television shows, please keep in mind that it is just TV and remember that it is recovery agents like Jim Elliot who are the ones keeping it real.

Posted in Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, International, Law Enforcement, Recovery Agent.

Ex Congressional Candidate Was A Fugitive

Jeff Downer  Gary Smith, one time candidate for the US House of Representatives in New Mexico, has been in the news recently for being arrested and charged with stalking and vandalizing the property of a former opponent.

Formerly a Texas resident, Mr. Smith claimed he had relocated to New Mexico in order spread his political vision.  Apparently there was a little more to it than that.  It turns out Mr. Smith also was facing warrants for aggravated assault and mischief charges in El Paso, TX as related here.

There is a lesson to be learned here.  Perhaps we should consider requiring all congressional and senatorial candidates to undergo criminal background checks.

It would make good television.  Much better than those so called “Bounty Hunter” shows.  Have “Dog” Chapman do the background checks and then sit down with folks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to go over their results.  Call it something catchy like: Face the Dog or Dog: CST (Congressional Skip Tracer).  Then air the show on C-SPAN to liven them up.

Now that’s something I would watch.


Posted in Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, National, Smiles. Tagged with .

Jennifer Lopez and Al Roker Bounty Hunter Lawsuit

Jeff Downer

Say what?  Per

Jennifer Lopez and Al Roker should think twice before sending their ruthless bounty hunter after an innocent man … and falsely accusing him of being a criminal on national TV — so says a new lawsuit.

Yes,  J Lo and Al are producing a bounty hunting show together.  No, I did not see that coming.

I am not a fan of over the top melodramatic “reality” television shows about bail bonding and fugitive recovery.  Aside from avoiding all that needless made for TV drama, we value our client’s privacy too much to engage in such unprofessional activities like this.

Rest assured Jeff Downer Bail Bonds will not be airing our business or yours on TV.  Not even for the beguiling Jennifer Lopez.  As for you Al…stay out of our neck of the woods.

Posted in Bail, Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, Legal, Recovery Agent, Smiles. Tagged with , , .

What Is a Bounty Hunter?

Jeff Downer  When a person fails to appear for a court appearance, the court will issue a warrant and an order to produce the defendant for the bail bondsman.  In such situations the bail bondsman may employ what is commonly referred to as a “Bounty Hunter” to apprehend the fugitive defendant.

What is a bounty hunter?  It is a question that in the recent past the answer to has become distorted and obscured by “reality” television, self appointed unlicensed bounty hunters and the popular media.

The term bounty hunter refers to what in the bail bond industry are called fugitive recovery agents.  Here in Indiana (as in most states) recovery agents are licensed by the state after meeting professional education requirements and once licensed must participate in continuing education.

Under the direction of the bonding company, recovery agent will engage in locating and apprehending the fugitive.

The over the top dramatics and unprofessional demeanor that are aired on reality television and portrayed in the popular media is not is to be expected from Jeff Downer Bail Bonds.  Such shows and publications focus on the volatile personalities involved as opposed to the of professional and responsible minded efforts of most recovery agents.  In any case, Jeff Downer Bail Bonds would never consider breaching confidentiality by broadcasting our client related relationships and activities on television.

More information about the state of Indiana’s recovery agent licensing requirements may be found here.


Posted in Bondsman, Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, Indiana, Recovery Agent. Tagged with .