What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do

Dec 5, 2021

Security guards are present at many of the venues that we frequent from day to day. The parameters of a security guard’s position, however, are not always clear. This can lead to ambiguity regarding their authority. Because of this, the question of what security guards can and can’t do is quite common. Understanding the authoritative role of security guards is key to avoiding unwanted or even unlawful encounters with such individuals.

At Wright and Gray, we provide high-quality personal injury counsel to our clients and strive to fully uphold the rights of our clients. There are many sides to personal injury, including unjust treatment from security guards. When considering what security guards can and can’t do, it is important to have a full understanding of their legal authorities. If you were involved in a questionable situation with a security guard and suffered injuries or losses, we may be able to help. Call us at 888-912-4944 to discuss your options today. 

Where Do Security Guards Get Their Power?

The first and most important questions to answer regarding a security guard’s role in enforcing the law are: what are their legal powers and where do these powers come from? This is not always clear, as security guards appear to have granted legal authority and, on occasion, exercise this authority by authorizing exit and entry from a location. Security guards are clearly not police, however, so where does their legal authority start and end?

In Louisiana, security guards are under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners, which provides for both armed and unarmed security guards. All security guards in the state are subject to Louisiana state law. In essence, security guards are contracted personnel. They are not law enforcement or police, rather they are civilians empowered by Louisiana state law and the company in which they are employed.

Essentially, security guards have the same authority as ordinary citizens. Clearly, however, they are able to exercise some authority to prevent crime. They are hired to prohibit crime, but if they have the same power as ordinary citizens, how are they able to prevent criminal activity? 

What Legal Authorities Do Security Guards Have?

Since they are not law enforcement, security guards do not have the legal ability to carry out full arrests, but they are able to detain individuals who are suspected of committing a crime. It is important to note that security guards do not have greater legal authority than a normal civilian. 

Security guards can make citizens arrest and detain individuals who have committed a crime. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 215 discusses shoplifting specifically, stating that security officers can detain an individual who is suspected of shoplifting. This detention is not considered an arrest, however, but a security guard is able to use reasonable force to hold you for up to sixty minutes in such cases. 

Whenever a security guard detains an individual or makes a citizen’s arrest, they are legally required to turn the detained or arrested person over to a police officer. With this in mind, security guards do not have the legal authority to detain a person indefinitely. Moreover, they are not permitted to search your belongings without your consent. If the guard suspects that the individual is carrying a weapon, however, they are permitted to search and disarm the individual when making a citizen’s arrest.

Can Security Guards Use Force Or Weapons?

Under Louisiana law, security guards are authorized to use “reasonable force” when detaining an individual who is suspected of committing a crime. This definition is quite vague, however, leaving substantial room for question. What exactly is reasonable force? 

What constitutes reasonable force is not always clear, but generally it is assumed that reasonable force cannot include excessive physicality that results in harm. If the force that a security guard employs results in physical harm or injury, this may constitute an unlawful and unreasonable use of force under the law. Generally, the level of force goes hand in hand with the crime and the risk that the alleged criminal poses to others in the vicinity.  

It should be noted that some security guards are qualified to use weapons, including firearms. These armed security guards are subject to greater training measures than typical security personnel. In such cases, the armed security guard must comply with Louisiana state regulations regarding weapons, but they are allowed to use such weapons to help detain individuals who have allegedly committed criminal acts.

When Security Guards Violate the Law 

Under state law, security guards are not permitted to search an individual, unless they have reason to believe that the person is armed. They are not allowed to use excessive force and cannot escalate a situation beyond the lowest necessary response level. If a security guard has done any of the following, these actions can have serious legal consequences under Louisiana state law. 

If you are unsure of what a security can and can’t do or believe that you have been subjected to unlawful acts at the hand of a security guard, you may be able to seek legal recourse. Consider seeking professional legal assistance to confirm that the security guard acted unlawfully. Wright and Gray can help with such matters and ensure that your rights are upheld. 

Wright And Gray Can Help Determine What Security Guards Can And Can’t Do and if Your Rights Were Violated

If you were subjected to unlawful treatment by a security guard, you may be left with a plethora of questions regarding your legal rights. These issues are particularly difficult due to the ambiguous nature of the role of security guards. Many people are unsure of their rights when it comes to arrest and detention. Understanding what security guards can and can’t do is a great starting point. 

Wright and Gray is a leading Louisiana-based law firm that helps individuals navigate these issues and other personal injury matters. We believe in fair and just treatment under the law. No one should be intimidated or harmed by a security guard. Call us today at 888-912-4944 to discuss your options and learn how we can help you.

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