A Look at the Transformation of Virginia’s Bail Bond System

Throughout the last decade, Virginia lawmakers have introduced a number of laws for its bail bonds system, adopting new rules and seeking to better regulate an industry that many say still operates straight out of the Wild West.

And Virginia is not the only state to do so in recent years, as is evident from the national shift that has caused many states to evaluate the practices and procedures of the bail bonds and bounty hunting industries.

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Regulations and a Changing Bail Bonds System

In 2002, the first look into the bail bonds and bounty hunting industries was organized by the Virginia State Crime Commission, who was commissioned by the General Assembly. After two years of study, the Commission’s report outlined recommendations for regulating the industries, thereby opening the door for legislation that granted the Department of Criminal Justice Services the power to monitor both the bail bonds and the bounty hunting businesses in Virginia and set standards for licensed bounty hunters.

But are the Regulations Welcomed?

Since then some bounty hunters have complained that the state has too much power and that making a living as a bounty hunter has become increasingly difficult. For example, the new law requires bounty hunters to pay $200 for an initial license, as well as another $50 for fingerprinting. Other fees include training classes, which may cost hundreds of dollars, and license renewal charges every two years.

Lisa McGee with the DCJS, views the laws differently, of course, saying that they provide a way for the state to “harness the near limitless authority of bondsmen and bounty hunters…” who often times had more power than even law enforcement officials.

Now, under Virginia statute, bounty hunters must play by a stricter set of rules, no longer allowed to kick down a door without informing anyone or announcing themselves beforehand.

Some Virginia bounty hunters and bail bondsmen say they should not be governed by the state, as they are independent agents of the federal government.

But not all bounty hunters in Virginia see a flawed system, as more than 400 people have applied to become bounty hunters in Virginia since 2006. Some bounty hunters think that increased legislation has removed some of the stigma attached to the profession and has weeded out less-than-scrupulous bail bondsmen and bounty hunters.

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