California Moves One Step Closer to Licensing Bounty Hunters

For immediate release:
  • Richard Garcia
  • 916-319-2059

(Sacramento) Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s (D-South Los Angeles) Assembly Bill (AB) 2043, sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, has passed both Senate Insurance and Senate Public Safety Committees. This bill requires all bail fugitive recovery agents, colloquially known as bounty hunters, to become licensed by the state.

Current law on these recovery agents is limited to unenforceable education, notice, and conduct standards, as no entity is currently charged with implementation and nearly all enforcement occurs after violations of the law. The California Department of Insurance (CDI) has become the recovery agents’ de facto watchdog, despite the fact these agents are not licensed by CDI unlike bail agents who hire and oversee them.

In April 2021, a Palm Springs resident, David Spann, was shot and killed by a bounty hunter, even though no warrants had been issued for Spann’s arrest. Also troubling in this case, the bounty hunter, who had prior felony convictions, had no authority or right to possess a firearm nor do work as a bounty hunter. This tragedy could have been prevented had there been more supervision and pre-employment screening from those who hired this bounty hunter, as well as had there been an entity to verify who is operating as a bounty hunter in our state.

“While bail licensees who hire bounty hunters can face enforcement actions against their licenses when their hirees violate California law, bounty hunters who commit abuses do not face such repercussions due to a deficiency in California law,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “For an occupation that does not require a warrant to apprehend and surrender individuals to court, enhanced standards and oversight are crucial to ensuring public safety.”

AB 2043 would charge CDI with licensing bail fugitive recovery agents. Presently, CDI is the entity consumers and law enforcement contact because the department regulates existing bail licensees and is the state’s agency who truly understands bail and services associated with it. CDI has a strong record of holding accountable bail agents who violate California law, as well as working diligently with partners in law enforcement. As such, it is crucial that this Legislature properly solidifies the department as the official regulator.

“By giving my department the authority to license bounty hunters, this legislation advances consumer protection and promotes public safety to help prevent future abuses by untrained, unlicensed bounty hunters that can have tragic results,” said Commissioner Lara. “AB 2043 will bring long overdue regulatory oversight to the bail bond industry. I thank Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer for authoring this much-needed legislation.”

By requiring bail fugitive recovery agents to become licensed by CDI, AB 2043 will increase professionalism and oversight in the bail/bond industry. Specifically, in doing so, this bill will require these recovery agents to pass a fingerprint background check; enhance education and training of licensee applicants; tighten industry supervision of recovery agents; ensure proper identification of who is operating in the state; and, provide an accurate size and scope of the industry.

AB 2043 moves on to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. represents South Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park, and a portion of Huntington Park. For more information about Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer, Sr., please visit https://a59.asmdc.org/