Can Security Guards Detain You?

November 10, 2021

In the minds of many people, security guards occupy a sort of grey area of legal authority. It is not always clear as to what powers they hold and this ambiguity can lead to a serious infringement of rights if left unchecked. The easiest way to avoid a violation of rights is to equip yourself with an understanding of security guards’ powers and legal authorities. To clarify this issue, perhaps the most important question to answer is: Can security guards detain me?  

Understanding whether or not security guards can detain you is crucial if you are attending events, shopping, or find yourself at a venue that uses security guards to protect the property. Without proper knowledge regarding the legal authorities of security guards, you are left vulnerable to a potential violation of your legal rights. At Wright & Gray, we provide legal counsel for our clients and accessible information for the public to help mitigate personal injury. Consider calling us today at 504-688-7330 to discuss how we can advocate for you. 

Where Do Security Guards Receive Their Authority?

The source of a security guard’s authority depends largely on their credentials and the agency that has deputized them. By far, the most important factor is whether or not the security guard is also a police officer or a member of law enforcement. If they are, then they possess much more legal authority than an average security guard. 

Private security officers, typically contracted by companies to perform a job, have the same powers as civilians. Their authority comes from their employer, meaning they do not have any special authority under the law. In most instances, they are simply there to act vigilant and maintain peace. 

In some cases, private security guards can also be registered under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners. They are not licensed, but rather registered to work for agencies that have been vetted and licensed by the Louisiana State Private Security Regulatory Agency. Even though they are registered with the state, they do not possess the same legal authorities as police. 

Note that just because a security guard carries a weapon does not mean they are automatically police. The Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners provides a registration program for armed security guards, but this does not mean they are necessarily associated with law enforcement or carry the same powers as police officers.

Can Security Guards Detain Me? 

Surely, it is not uncommon to have heard about a situation where an individual shoplifted or acted belligerently at an event and was escorted into a confined location by a security guard. So, can security guards detain you? The short answer is yes, but it is a bit more nuanced than that simple answer.

More or less, security guards have the same powers as civilians. Therefore, they are able to carry out a citizen’s arrest. The Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 214 grants legal authority to any private person to arrest an individual who has committed a felony, whether or not they were there when the felony was committed. This arrest cannot be indefinite, however, as Louisiana law specifies that the arrested person must be turned over to police as soon as possible. Therefore, as a “private person,” a security guard has the right to make a citizen's arrest. They cannot, however, detain you for an unreasonable amount of time. They must contact a police officer and transfer control of the situation as soon as possible. 

In the case of shoplifting, Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 215 discusses the procedures that a security guard must follow when detaining an individual who is accused of theft. According to the law, a shoplifter may be detained for up to an hour, unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the person has actually shoplifted goods. Moreover, restraint may be used to detain individuals, assuming the use of force is reasonable. 

Use Of Force Or Restraint

Security guards may use force or restraint when making a citizen’s arrest or detaining shoplifters, but are there limitations to that force? What if the security guard is armed?

It is critical for security guards to act with caution, as the use of excessive force may have serious legal consequences. This is particularly applicable when a security guard is armed. While they are authorized to prevent criminal activity within a specified premises, they are not authorized to cause serious physical harm through the use of excessive force. If you are in any kind of situation where someone, including a security guard, is attempting to use force, always proceed with caution regarding your safety. Every circumstance is unique, and your safety is always paramount. 

It can be difficult to differentiate between a reasonable use of force and unlawful restraint. If you believe that you were subjected to excessive force or unlawful detainment, consider contacting a personal injury attorney at Wright and Gray to discuss your situation in more detail. 

I Believe That I Was Unlawfully Detained By A Security Guard. How Can A Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

While security guards are able to arrest or detain individuals who committed criminal activity, there are limitations to these powers. If you or a loved one was unlawfully detained by a security guard or was subjected to excessive force during a citizen’s arrest, you may be able to seek legal recourse. In these cases, it is advised to seek legal assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney. 

The team of lawyers at Wright and Gray are passionate about upholding the rights of citizens and ensuring fair treatment under the law. We strive to arm our clients with the knowledge necessary to avoid illegal treatment. Understanding if a security guard can detain is merely one piece of a complex legal puzzle. If you or a loved one has experienced unlawful treatment at the hands of a security guard, you are not alone. Consider contacting us today at 504-688-7330 to learn more about your options. 


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