California is on Track to License Bounty Hunters for the First Time

Bill Heads to Governor for Signature

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 the California State Assembly and Senate with bipartisan support. This bill requires all bail fugitive recovery agents, colloquially known as bounty hunters, to become licensed by the California Department of Insurance. 

Recent allegations against bounty hunters reported to CDI include burglary, robbery, homicide, unlicensed activity, theft, coercion, misrepresentation, kidnapping, extortion, illegal solicitation, and the hiring of bounty hunters with prior felony convictions. A bounty hunters’ strong financial incentive to capture and return bail skippers combined with their ability to self-regulate fails to protect the public from a job that simulates law enforcement and subjects the public to dangerous and traumatizing situations.

Though current law on bounty hunters requires education, notice, and conduct standards, all requirements remain unenforceable as there is no way of guaranteeing acting bounty hunters are completing such requirement. This is the case in California because there is no entity is charged with implementation and, as such, nearly all enforcement occurs after violations of the law.

By requiring bounty hunters to become licensed by CDI, AB 2043 will require these bounty hunters to pass a fingerprint background check; enhance education and training of licensee applicants; tighten industry supervision of bounty hunters; ensure proper identification of who is operating in the state; and, provide an accurate size and scope of the industry.

“While bail licensees who hire bounty hunters can face enforcement actions against their licenses when those they hire 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.”

“In passing AB 2043, the Legislature made clear our commitment to upholding public safety and protecting members of the public from rogue bounty hunters’ abuses. This bill will provide overdue oversight of an occupation that has long gone unregulated,” added Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Assembly Public Safety Chair and author of AB 2043. “I would like to extend my gratitude to Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara for his long advocacy for regulations of the bail industry, and for partnering with me on this bill. It is my hope that Governor Newsom will sign this crucial, commonsense measure into law.”

“The Legislature’s overwhelming passage of AB 2043 mandating bounty hunters be regulated and licensed by my Department will help stop future abuses by the bail bond industry that can have tragic results for families and innocent victims,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who sponsored AB 2043. The bill was one of several recommendations in a 2018 Department report that Commissioner Lara has taken action to implement. “I applaud Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer for his public safety leadership in authoring AB 2043, and urge Governor Newsom to sign this urgent accountability and transparency measure into law.”

AB 2043 now heads to the Governor’s Desk for signature. 

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/