In Virginia, laws governing bounty hunting can be found in Article 12, Title 9.1 of the Code of Virginia. Virginia bounty hunters are also known as bail enforcement agents.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186, a bail enforcement agent, also known as a bounty hunter, means any individual engaged in bail recovery.
In order to be licensed as a bail enforcement agent, a person should[i]:
- be 21 years of age or older,
- have received a high school diploma or GED, and
- have satisfactorily completed a basic certification course in training for bail enforcement agents offered by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.4 (B), the following persons are not eligible for licensure as a bail enforcement agent and may not be employed nor serve as agents for a bail enforcement agent:
- Persons who have been convicted of a felony within the Commonwealth, any other state, or the U.S., who have not been pardoned, or whose civil rights have not been restored.
- Persons who have been convicted of any misdemeanor within the preceding five years.
- Persons currently the subject of a protective order within the Commonwealth or another state.
- Employees of a local or regional jail.
- Employees of a sheriff’s office, or a state or local police department.
- Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and any employees of their offices.
- Employees of the Department of Corrections, Department of Criminal Justice Services, or a local pretrial or community-based probation services agency.
An applicant for a bail enforcement license should apply for license in a form and manner prescribed by the Criminal Justice Services Board, and containing any information the Board requires[ii].
Prior to the issuance of any bail enforcement agent license, each applicant should[iii]:
- File with the Department an application for such license on the form and in the manner prescribed by the Board.
- Complete the basic certification courses in training for bail enforcement agents required by the Department.
- Submit the appropriate nonrefundable application processing fee to the Department.
- Submit to fingerprinting by a local or state law-enforcement agency and provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded, along with the applicant’s fingerprints, to the Department of State Police Central Criminal Records Exchange.
A license granted to a bail enforcement agent by the Department authorizes such person to engage in the business of bail recovery[iv]. Every bail enforcement agent license issued will be for a term of two years[v].
A bail enforcement agent license may be renewed for an ensuing two-year period, upon the filing of an application in the form prescribed by the Department and payment of the nonrefundable renewal application processing fee prescribed by the Department[vi].
During the recovery of a bailee, a bail enforcement agent should have a copy of the relevant recognizance for the bailee[vii]. S/he should also have written authorization from the bailee’s bondsman, obtained prior to effecting the capture.
A bail enforcement agent should not enter the residence of another without first verbally notifying the occupants who are present at the time of entry[viii].
Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.12 (C), absent exigent circumstances, a bail enforcement agent should give prior notification of at least 24 hours to local law enforcement or state police of the intent to apprehend a bailee. Further, in all cases, a bail enforcement agent should inform local law enforcement within 60 minutes of capturing a bailee.
Also, a bail enforcement agent should not break any laws of the Commonwealth in the act of apprehending a bailee[ix].
Any person who engages in bail recovery in the Commonwealth without a valid license issued by the Department is guilty of a Class one misdemeanor[x].
[i] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.4 (A).
[ii] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.5 (A) .
[iii] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.5 (B).
[iv] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.6 (A).
[v] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.6 (B).
[vi] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.6 (C).
[vii] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.12 (A).
[viii] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.12 (B).
[ix] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.12 (D).
[x] Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-186.13.