Bail agents act as sureties, hiring bounty hunters to retrieve fugitives who do not report for court dates or capturing them themselves. Licensure is required in many states and usually includes coursework, training, and examinations as prerequisites.
Also known as bail bondsmen, bail agents assist in maintaining a defendant's freedom of movement following an arrest and bail hearing by posting money as a guarantee the defendant will return to court for trial and future court hearings. There are no specific education programs for bail bondsmen, but some states require that they be licensed, which may mandate completing a training program and passing an examination as well as taking continuing education classes.
|Required Education||Pre-licensing training course may be required|
|Other Requirements||Some states require licensing; continuing education classes typically required for renewal|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||10% for financial specialists, including bail bondsmen|
|Median Annual Salary (2016)**||$32,000|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Job Description of a Bail Agent
Bail agents work for themselves or as employees of bail bond agencies or insurance companies. Bail agents may hire bail enforcement officers, also known as bounty hunters or fugitive recovery agents, to locate and apprehend defendants who fail to appear in court. Some bail agents act as their own bail enforcement officers, which generally requires additional training and, in some cases, licensure.
Duties of a Bail Agent
Bail agents act as liaisons between courts and defendants, providing the funds required to release from custody a defendant who is awaiting trial. Should the defendant fail to return to court on the assigned day, the bail agent must track down the defendant, or hire a bail enforcement officer to do so, within a period of time set by the courts. If they are unable to locate the defendant within that time period, bail agents must forfeit the entire bail amount.
Requirements of a Bail Agent
Not all states require licensure for bail agents, and in those states that do, requirements vary. In many cases, states set age requirements for prospective bail agents, and candidates for licensure may be subject to criminal background and credit checks. Many states also require that bail agents complete training and/or pass an examination en route to licensure. Additionally, some states require that bail agents take part in yearly continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.
Pre-licensing classes for bail agents often are offered through professional development or continuing education departments of two-year community colleges or four-year colleges and universities. These programs generally include 8-20 hours of classroom instruction, covering topics like sound business practices and state statutes. Some programs for prospective bail agents are offered online.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to bail bondsmen, but classifies this occupation in a group with financial specialists. The BLS predicted that employment within this career group would increase by about 10% between 2014 and 2024. PayScale.com reported that the median salary among bail bonding agents was $32,000 as of January 2016.
The exact education for bail bondsmen varies, but many are required to take educational classes and pass other tests to earn licensure, which may be needed. Bail agents must be able to track down and capture people who jump bail, all in a timely manner so that they can appear for their court date.