How to get rid of bounty: Skyrim (Complete guide)


I’ve developed a terrible habit in Skyrim. I always end up breaking the law. Oh, I start off by being a nice little thief. I steal from the rich and hand over pouches of cash to poor beggars. 

But, eventually, inevitably, my grabby little hands pickpocket the wrong person, and I get caught. You’d think I’d run away, live to steal another day. But no, chaos ensues, and bodies start dropping. Before you know it, everybody within 50 yards is lining up to enter Sovngarde (the Skyrim afterlife). 

But my rampage comes with a hefty price. I’ll have thousands of Septims worth of bounty hanging over my head.

You see, every time a crime is witnessed in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will result in a cash bounty being placed on your character. You either pay the bounty off with gold or your life.

So this got me thinking.

How can you clear your name, remove all the bounty on your head, and wander the world once again without every guard trying to snick your head off?

Well, there are quite a few ways to cut the burden of bounty from around your neck.

To eliminate your bounty in Skyrim, you can declare a thaneship, go to jail, serve your sentence, or pay the bounty. You can also get guards to ignore your bounty using the Bribery or Persuasion skills from the Speech skill tree. The Thieves Guild will provide you with alternatives to reduce your bounty by accomplishing small missions for Delvin Mallory and Vex. 

Ok, we can both agree that there are quite a few ways of cutting your bounty loose in Skyrim. But there are actually even more ways not listed above.

Keep reading to discover all the different ways you can banish your bounty.

How Skyrim’s Bounty System works

Bounty measures how many crimes you have committed throughout the world of Skyrim.

Bounty, measured in gold, is accrued against your character’s name. And the more bounty you have more crimes you have committed.

Generally, the higher a player’s bounty, the more severe the consequences.

A low amount of bounty will lead guards to confront you and attempt to arrest you.

At higher bounty levels, guards will attempt to kill you on-site, and bounty hunters will be dispatched to hunt you down.

The nine holds of Skyrim will keep track of the Dragonborn’s offenses separately. So you can have 5000 bounty against your name in Windhelm and no bounty anywhere else.

Bounty is also tracked independently by other entities, such as Orc tribes. However, these can be paid off like all other bounties.

How to get rid of bounty in Skyrim.

1: All witnesses must be killed.

I’m not going to lie, this is my favorite way of eliminating bounty: Leave no survivors.

If an NPC witnesses your crime, and somehow they always seem to, you can just kill them.

The problem is crimes are usually witnessed by multiple NPC. So, you guessed it, you have to kill all witnesses.

Each kill will gain you up to 1,000 gold of juicy bounty. However, if you kill everybody in the area, eliminate all survivors, and dispatch every witness, your bounty will be immediately removed. No questions asked. Mostly because nobody is left alive to ask.

There is one tiny, teeny little problem with this “nuclear” option: There’s a good chance you’ll slaughter mission-critical NPCs, which could mean some story arcs will be incompletable (Is that even a word? Grammarly seems to think so!).

2: Serve out your sentence

Fancy doing some hard labor? Have you always thought being a jailbird looked like an interesting direction to take in life?

Then why not let yourself be arrested by the guards in Skyrim?

They’ll transport you, via first-class carriage, of course, to the nearest jail cell. There, you’ll make friends with the local scum bags/, and there may even be a few rats to greet you in your cell.

Once you’re in jail, you may sleep on the jail bed to serve your time. In this case, you will lose your progress on one or more skill levels and be released without the stolen goods in your inventory. You will lose all your bounty, though.

However, if you’re feeling a little sinister, you can use the single lockpick in your inventory to make a great escape. You’ll still have all your bounty if you manage to get out. But at least you’ll be able to steal back all your, um, stolen goods.

3: Use your power of Thaneship

Completing several quests in a hold allows the Dragonborn to become a thane.

Declaring your Thaneship to a guard if you are asked to pay for your crimes will result in your bounty being waived. Still, the option only works once and applies to crimes worth less than 1,000 gold.

That means if you murder somebody, which gives you a bounty of exactly 1000, you won’t be able to waive the bounty.

4: Use a Bounty Hunter!

If you have more than 1,000 gold bounties in a hold, you may be confronted by a bounty hunter when wandering the wilderness.

These bounty hunters will allow you to pay them cash to remove your bounty. If you have an extremely high bounty, you can take them up on this offer, as it’ll often be lower than paying off the bounty when talking to guards.

However, it is far better, and more fun, to just off them and steal their stuff.

5: Take over a hold

You can reset your bounty whenever a hold is taken by your faction during the Civil War questline, whether you’re aligned with the Imperial Legion or the Stormcloaks.

6: Remove bounty with the help of the thieves guild.

First, you must become a member of the Thieves Guild to unlock this option. After completing five side quests from Delvin Mallory or Vex in a specific hold, unique jobs will become available.

These jobs will help reduce your bounty in the given hold. 

7: Bribery and persuasion skills

Skyrim offers many tools for players to approach and solve any situation in unique and different ways.

And removing bounty is no different.

For example, you can use perks in Speech to help persuade guards to remove your bounty.

Another perk lets you bribe guards so they don’t arrest you or look the other way when you commit a crime. 

How Do You Get Bounty in Skyrim

Below is a list of how you can get bounty in Skyrim and how much you’ll get for each action.

Theft

Half of the stolen item’s value

Ever noticed when thieving in the world of Skyrim, many objects have the red “steal” tag on them? If you get caught taking these items, bounty will be added to your character, equal to half the value of the item you stole.

Trespassing

5 Gold

If caught trespassing, you’ll receive a single warning to leave the area. If you leave promptly, you’ll receive no bounty. However, if you linger for more than 30 seconds, you will gain bounty, and the guards will enter the restricted area and arrest you.

Lockpicking

5 Gold

You will get bounty if you’re caught picking an owned door or container’s lock. 

You obtain the bounty regardless of whether the lockpicking attempt was successful.

Disturbing the Jarl’s peace

10 Gold

You will get bounty if you loiter around a dead body for too long. This simulates the guard’s fear that you are about to steal something from the body.

Pickpocketing

25 Gold

The chance of detection by an NPC while pickpocketing depends on your Sneak level and the weight of the item stolen.

Just looking into an NPC’s inventory won’t count as pickpocketing.

However, if you get caught, you’ll instantly get bounty, the NPC will attack you, and guards will often come running to attack you.

Assault

40 Gold

If you attack a non-hostile NPC, you’ll get bounty.

A hand-to-hand brawl triggered by an NPC conversation won’t count as assault as long as you don’t use weapons, spells, or wear apparel that harms enemies.

Be careful not to hit anybody else while brawling, as this will give you an instant bounty.

Horse Theft

50 Gold

You will get bounty every time you mount a horse whose action label is labeled in red.

Escaping Jail

100 Gold

I love escaping from jail in Skyrim. There’s something wildly enticing about being a khajiit on the run.

The problem is, you’ll get an extra 100 bounty added to your name. Though thinking about it, I usually run around with thousands of bounty to my name. What’s an additional 100 gonna do?

Forging a Business Ledger

100 Gold

This action can only be performed during The Numbers Job side quests given by Delvin Mallory in the Thieves Guild.

If you get caught, you get 100 bounty.

Forging the Dragonsreach Prison Registry Ledger

250 Gold

This action can only happen during the Imitation Amnesty quest given by Delvin Mallory in the Thieves Guild.

You’ll pick up 250 bounty to hang around your neck if you get caught.

Public Werewolf or Vampire Lord Transformation

1,000 Gold

Being able to become a vampire lord or Werewolf in Skyrim is, frankly, astounding!

But having these nightmarish powers come with a price.

If any NPC witnesses you transform from one form to another, you will incur a bounty of 1000 gold.

But then, who needs gold when you suck the blood of your enemies, ay?

It also counts as a crime if someone witnesses you turning back into your original form. 

Most NPCs will turn hostile towards werewolves and vampires (Who knew?), increasing your chances of getting fined for assault and murder if you attack back.

Murder

1,000 Gold

Had enough of Skyrim’s peasants? Fancy going all GTA on their collective asses and obliterating them? I don’t blame you. It’s so much damn fun!

Though be aware there are consequences to your murderous actions.

Outside of, you know, traumatic flashbacks of your rampage, you’ll get 1000 bounty for every civilian you send to Sovngarde. 

If you cause an environmental death, like nudging somebody off a cliff, it will not count as murder. But we both know you meant it!

Is It Possible To Pay My Bounty Without Losing My Stolen Items?

Yes, of course, there is, and it’s effortless.

Before you pay your bounty, store all your stolen items in a safe container (A container you own), such as the one in a home you have bought.

That way, once you get arrested and thrown in jail, you can escape, return to where you dropped off all the stolen goods, and pick them back up. Simple, elegant, beautiful.

If you don’t own your own container, You may use any outdoor container. However, you risk losing your stuff when the container respawns and re-contents.

Help! I’m Being Attacked by Guards? How Do I Pay Off My Bounty?

You can stop a fight with guards by sheathing your weapon if you’re already being attacked.

This will trigger the usual dialogues in which you can pay your fine, go to jail, resist arrest, or select other dialogue options.

Is there a console command to remove bounty in Skyrim?

Yes, there is. On PC, open the console command box, and type in ‘player.paycrimegold’ to remove all active bounties from all holds.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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