Eastmarch Hold Guard Skyrim

One of the Hold Guards that are posted in the holds of Skyrim.

For other uses, see Crime.
"By order of the Jarl, stop right there! You have committed crimes against Skyrim and her people. What say you in your defense?"
Hold Guard

Bounty is a game mechanic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bounty tracks the number and severity of crimes committed and converts it to a GoldIcon amount.

Compared with previous releases

Separated by hold

Unlike The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where bounty was tracked and upheld across the cities of Cyrodiil, bounty in Skyrim is kept separate by Hold. For instance, when a crime is committed in Falkreath Hold, guards in Winterhold will not arrest criminals based on their Falkreath Bounty.

Evading bounty

Traditionally, three options for resolving a bounty exist across games: paying the bounty off in gold, resisting arrest, or sitting in prison. Skyrim introduces a fourth option: evading bounty by flaunting a title. Jarls of Skyrim can grant the title of Thane to citizens, which allows the individual's menial crimes to be overlooked. Crimes such as murder or assault may not be overlooked, however it should be noted that evasion of a bounty via Thanehood can only be used once per hold. However, there is also another option for the Dragonborn if they are part of the Thieves Guild, in which you pay more septims (bribing the guard) but do not lose stolen goods in your inventory.

Stolen items

As with other releases, all stolen items are removed when bounties are resolved.

Dealing with a bounty

When any bounty is accumulated, guards in Holds or cities stop the offender, forcing them to halt and engage in dialogue. Four options exist for resolving the bounty (five for Thieves Guild members).


These are the following bounties that can be acquired. It may be higher or lower, depending on the crime and the severity of said crime. Generally speaking, the said bounty not be acquired if no one witnesses the Dragonborn committing it. However, if a bounty is acquired, killing all witnesses before they can report it will effectively remove the bounty. The crime bounty ratio is as follows: The more severe the crime, the higher the bounty. The higher the bounty, the longer the sentence. The longer the sentence, the more skills that will be affected.

  • Theft: Half of the stolen item's value†
  • Trespassing: 5 GoldIcon
  • Disturbing the Jarl's peace: 10 GoldIcon
  • Pickpocketing: 25 GoldIcon
  • Assault: 40 GoldIcon‡ (hand-to-hand brawls do not count)
  • Horse Theft: 50 GoldIcon each time the horse is mounted
  • Escaping Jail: 100 GoldIcon
  • Forging a Business Ledger: 100 GoldIcon
    • Forging the Dragonsreach Prison Registry Ledger: 250 GoldIcon
  • Murder: 1,000 GoldIcon (self-defense does not count unless the attacker is a guard)
  • Transforming into a Werewolf or Vampire Lord: 1,000 GoldIcon (this includes reverting to your original form if you weren't seen transforming earlier)
  • † The bounty for theft is half of the stolen item's value. This means that if an item that's worth only 1 GoldIcon is stolen, the bounty will be 0 GoldIcon, but it still must be "paid" through conversation with the Guard. Paying the "0" bounty will still cause the guard to confiscate any stolen items.
  • ‡ Feeding on people as a Vampire or with Namira's Ring will also count as assault.

Paying the fine

If GoldIcon is paid, the guards leave and GoldIcon is automatically subtracted from the inventory.

If arrest is resisted, all guards in the immediate area, including some bystanders and citizens, draw weapons and attempt to slay the criminal—only upon the criminal's escape or death do they relent. During combat, the criminal can choose to make the guard "yield" their attacks by initiating dialogue. This brings the criminal back to choice menu, in which they can choose to pay off the bounty or serve jail time. If the criminal's bounty is high enough, Jarls employ Bounty Collectors to chase down criminals and attack them. They can appear in any hold or location, randomly.

Serving jail time

Criminals can choose to spend time in jail for accumulated bounty. When selecting this option, the criminal is stripped of all items, weapons, and armor and placed in a cell. To wait the duration of the sentence, sleep in the bed. Upon release, all items are returned. If the criminal chooses to escape, bounty is removed, but their items must be manually obtained from an evidence locker somewhere in the prison. If caught, they will receive a new bounty.


If the Dragonborn steals a low value object then some of the lower class may send Hired Thugs after them. For lower level characters they may be tough opponents.

Special circumstances


Upon becoming Thane of a Hold, small bounties can be overlooked simply by stating one's title as Thane. Bounties exceeding 1,000 GoldIcon cannot be forgiven using this method. This can only be done once per hold though.


In Markarth, citizens are sent to Cidhna Mine to pay off bounties. The sentence is served by mining ore or escaping. Being imprisoned in the mine is part of the quest "No One Escapes Cidhna Mine."

Thieves Guild

After completing Special jobs for the Thieves Guild in Riften, criminals gain the option of bribing guards to allow them to keep stolen items.


The "Bribery" perk in the Speech skill tree allows criminals to persuade guards out of arresting or fining them. This method does not remove bounty, simply the guard who attempted to collect on the bounty ignores it. Other guards may still respond to the bounty.


In the Illusion school of Magicka, a spell called Pacify calms hostile targets. Coupled with the "Kindred Mage" perk from the same skill tree, the spell has the potential of calming guards, when a criminal acquires a bounty, causing them to forget the bounty temporarily and walk away. This option allows criminals to run or Fast Travel to a safer location.

Killing witnesses

If in a remote or enclosed location, murdering witnesses to a theft, murder, or another crime annuls the bounty one acquires automatically for committing the crime. Alternatively, if no one witnesses the crime and the criminal is properly stealthed while committing it, a bounty may not even be acquired.

Taking a Hold

During the Civil War, whenever a hold is taken by the Imperial Legion or Stormcloaks, a criminal's bounty is reset.

Stolen items

Storing stolen items in chests and containers or simply dropping may remove the bounty altogether. This is especially useful when items are accidentally picked up in shops or guild headquarters.

The owner of the item that witnesses the theft may simply take the item you picked up. In this case, you might not receive bounty.


Master Criminal (Achievement)
Master Criminal
Bounty of 1000 gold in all nine holds
Points 20 Gamer points
Bronze trophy


This section contains bugs related to Bounty (Skyrim). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  / XB1  ,  PS3  / PS4  ,  PC  / MAC  ,  NX  , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
  • Individuals launched off cliffs by the Unrelenting Force shout do not accrue a bounty for murder even if the target dies upon impact. However, the Dragonborn will still receive a bounty for assault.
  • Bounties can be accrued even if witnesses are not present. Sometimes chickens, dogs, and other wild animals can be witnesses to a crime as they are considered entities.
  • Guards may attack criminals without giving them the option to pay their bounty or yield.
  • Guards will sometimes attack criminals even if the crime was unseen and no bounty was placed. They will not give the option of yielding.
  • Sometimes, only a few guards will attack, while the rest go about their normal business.
  •  PC   Guards may still attack you after you paid of your bounty, and don't give the option of yielding.
  •  PC   360   Sometimes, the player may have a non-existent bounty to pay in a hold that the player has never entered or even discovered. No known reason for this.
  •  PC   During the quest "Contract: Kill Beitild," the Dragonborn may be attacked almost immediately by all the guards in Dawnstar even when the player has no bounty whatsoever. No known reason for this.
  •  360   Sometimes, intervening in a random encounter against hostiles, like the Forsworn against Legion soldiers, will incur a bounty in the Hold that the encounter appeared in.


Start a Discussion Discussions about Bounty (Skyrim)

  • Can't Talk to the Guards

    5 messages
    • That is strange. Usually, being a Werewolf shouldn't get you a bounty. In any case, If you can't talk to anyone, you can try attack...
    • I'm having the exact same problem. I thought it would be cool to see how a werewolf and a dragon would matchup in combat (and also becaus...
  • Bounty Game Freeze

    14 messages
    • to those who still suffer from the problem, try removing those nasty lil iron arrows, worked for me
    • Stripping down and going back? Never thought that would fix this glitch....IT DID THOUGH!!