Can a Felon Become a Bail Bondsman?

Being arrested and convicted of a crime has far-reaching effects. One of the major impacts lies in employment.

Thanks to background checks, it becomes impossible to hide such history. These reports are requested by employers and can be used to disqualify one from a job.

But what impact does it have where one wishes to operate as an independent contractor. What if one wants to work as a bail bondsman? Can a felon become a bail bondsman?

can a felon become a bail bondsman

Given the close association with courts and crime, you might think a felon would want to avoid this. However, there are certain benefits associated with the job we will discuss later.

Let’s first consider what kind of work this career entails.

What Is a Bail Bondsman?

can felon become a bail bondsman

Many people find they cannot afford to pay bail. Even for minor offenses, several thousands of dollars asked for can be hard to come by. This is where the bail bondsman comes in.

They offer financial services to such people. In exchange for some form of collateral, they provide the funds needed to post bail. This serves as a guarantee they will turn up in court as required.

Bail bondsmen make a living by charging a fee on this bail amount or surety bond. It often ranges between 10-20%.

It may seem a risky business, especially if the offender runs away. However, in most jurisdictions, the bail bondsmen do not forfeit the entire bail amount. They typically just lose out on a small amount and the rest is refunded.

However, in federal cases, the consequences are more serious. The defendant must not only appear in court as required. They must also adhere to whatever other conditions have been placed on them.

Failure to meet this standard may result in forfeiture of the entire bail amount.

There are also immigration bonds. These are for defendants detained at immigration detention facilities.

They are considered a high flight risk. As such bail bondsmen typically charge higher fees for this type of bond or do not offer it at all.

They often work in tandem with fugitive recovery agents. These agents aid in tracking down offenders who have failed to turn up for their day in court. Thus skipping out on their bail.

To conduct business as a bail bondsman, one must be duly licensed by state authorities.

Perks of Becoming a Bail Bondsman

As said, this can be a lucrative business. There are many people in need of assistance when it comes to meeting bail. So the demand is high.

The charges are also quite profitable. Especially with surety bonds where the penalties are low even if a defendant absconds.

For felons that often find difficulty securing employment, this can be a good alternative. You essentially run your own business. Being self-employed means only having to answer to yourself.

You can even turn it into a growing concern by hiring your own staff to expand the business. This has the potential for even greater earning and the introduction of other services.

It is a flexible enough business that you can pick and choose your hours. This flexibility can be great for those with other obligations like school or childcare.

Another upside is that you are in a position to help people. You can help ease their frustration when they have no cash to spare.

So, with these upsides how does one join the ranks?

How to Become a Bail Bondsman?

can felon become the bail bondsman

As mentioned, to become a bail bondsman you need to acquire a state license. Different states will have different requirements when it comes to this.

Most will require that you must be at least 18 years old. You will also likely need an academic requirement of at least a high school diploma or GED.

Having some additional qualifications in accounting or finance can be desirable.

A majority of states have a certification process. Apart from Kentucky, Illinois, and Wisconsin, you will need to complete an apprenticeship with a licensed bondsman. This apprenticeship should usually last at least a year.

You may also need to complete a certain number of hours in training on criminal law. These pre-licensing courses will aid in preparing you for the licensing exam.

Do consult your state’s Department of insurance to find out all the pre-licensing requirements.

You will then need to sit the written exam. They are mostly made up of multiple-choice questions.

You may also be required to submit fingerprints at the time of the exam. A fee is charged for taking this exam.

If you pass, then you can apply for the license. Again, check with the Department of Insurance to find out what documents you must attach to your application.

Also, verify if you need a separate license if working as an independent contractor. If working for another company this license should be sufficient.

Can A Felon Become a Bail Bondsman?

can felon become bail bondsman

Background checks are a part of the vetting process for this license. You will likely be asked about criminal history in the application form.

Do not fail to divulge the truth. Failure to do so may be seen as an attempt at fraud. You may end being prosecuted by state authorities.

Some states do forbid those with felony convictions from earning such licenses. It is advisable to consult the state Department of Insurance before even starting on this journey. They can advise you if there are any rules against this and if there are any remedies.

An expungement can assist in this. This legal remedy does allow offenders to legally state they have no criminal history.

There are also some states where there is no licensing required to become a bondsman. You may however be required to work for an existing company as an apprentice first. Having a criminal record may make securing such employment hard.


Working as a bail bondsman is a possibility for felons in some jurisdictions. Most however have licensing standards to be met. Having a criminal record can make meeting these standards hard.

Before embarking on this endeavor, it pays to become informed. Seek out the relevant state department and ask about licensing conditions, and if you meet them.

Do remember that even if this path leads nowhere, there are many other career options. You may also consider starting another type of business with fewer barriers.

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