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Can a security guard detain you? Security Guard Rules

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Security Guards are hired by businesses often for two reasons; to deter threats such as theft and vandalism, and to deal with these issues if they arise. But as security guards what are they legally allowed to do? As the security guards are hired to deter and deal with crime, it is often thought they have similar powers as those in the police force. Security guards, on the other hand, have the same legal rights or authority as members of the general public (you could even deny speaking to a guard if you did not want to). This, of course, raises more questions about what a security guard is permitted to do in the face of customers or potential threats.

One of the prime reasons a security guard is hired is to keep the peace in busy commercial spaces like banks, airports, shopping centres, pubs, nightclubs, music festivals and many other venues. The benefits of hiring a security guard to keep your property protected against threats like vandalism and thefts aren’t too challenging to understand. As a business owner, you should be sensible to ensure the safety of your clients, employees and visitors and operate your business in a safer environment and minimising potential economic loss.

What a Security Guard Can and Can’t Do

Security guards and police officers have a lot in common. They usually wear uniforms, carry weapons (including firearms in some situations), defend people and property, and are viewed as authorities, law enforcement officers, and figures of law and order.

A security guard, on the other hand, is not a police officer. He or she is not a government employee. Instead, he works for a private company, with restrictions on what he can and cannot do.

As a result, the legalities of a security guard’s conduct are frequently muddled. The following points will help you understand the role of security guards better. Let’s dive into what exactly a security guard can and can’t do.

#1 Protect property |

Property protection is one of the most typical responsibilities of security guards. In many cases, a guard is given delegated responsibility in such scenarios, allowing them to keep both the location and the individuals on-site secure. They can’t carry out criminal actions, but they can order individuals to move on (stop loitering), leave a location, and even detain someone if they have reason to believe a crime has been committed.

#2 Make a citizen’s arrest |

If a crime is witnessed and public safety is a concern, a security guard has the same rights as any other citizen. When a guard makes such an arrest, he or she is required to call the police as quickly as possible. If the individual who has been arrested has a weapon, the guard has the right to take it away.

#3 Use reasonable force |

If a security guard is forced to use force against a person in the course of their duty to ensure the safety of others and/or property, it must be reasonable and justified. A security guard, like a police officer, would be expected to employ other methods before resorting to force, such as efficient verbal communication.

#4 Can Request a Physical Search |

Security guards are usually not allowed to search you or your possessions unless they have your consent. If you are not present or unconscious, however, this does not apply. This includes the ability to look through your bag or vehicle. This also applies to security guards who feel they have captured a shoplifter, as they are not allowed to conduct a forced search if the person does not consent; in this case, the suspect shoplifter would have to be detained until a police officer arrives and can legally conduct a forced search. However, in certain circumstances, security guards can request a physical search –

  • They have the right to inspect a bag or any other form of possession that has been left unattended in a suspicious situation because it may pose a threat to public safety.
  • If a person is unconscious and the security guard is trying to identify them so that they can be helped, the security personnel is allowed to inspect their bag.

#5 Physically Restraint |

Security guards are only allowed to use reasonable force when attending to a suspect. Any levels of extra force such as physical restraint and grabbing must only be used when completely necessary and when in the process of detaining someone. This could be if the suspect tries to escape after attempting an offence or if the guards think that they could cause damage to themselves or others.

#6 Refuse entry |

If the premises are open to the public, the owner or manager of the premises has the authority to decide who can and cannot enter. The security guard serves on behalf of the owner or manager and, as a result, has the authority to determine who is allowed to enter the premises.

If anyone refuses to allow a security guard to examine their bag, they have every right to refuse them access to the premises, whether it’s a bar, club, or whatever else. This is frequently a typical regulation set by businesses that operate 24 hours a day.

#7 Carry a Weapon |

Security guards are not authorised to carry guns because they have no more legal authority than the general people. Security guards cannot have pepper spray, batons, or a gun on their person as a deterrent, and they surely cannot use them. Front-of-house security guards are more likely to utilise dispute resolution techniques rather than physical force. Handcuffs are allowed to be used to make a citizen’s arrest, and guards will be taught how to use them effectively and without injuring anyone, but they can technically be carried by anyone.

Can You be Detained by a Security Guard?

If the security guard has reason to believe that a crime has taken place, they’re allowed to detain an individual reasonably. This means they can use handcuffs, do a pat-down to determine if a weapon is being carried, and prevent the person from fleeing the scene while waiting for the police to come if the case warrants it.

However, some requirements must be met for the arrest to be legal. Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act governs these matters in the USA. The following are the rules that govern a citizen’s arrest:

  • They witness or have reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed a crime
  • They witness or have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is in the act of committing a crime
  • To protect a person from causing injury to themselves or others
  • Prevent a person from damaging property or causing a loss to the business/organisation
  • To stop a person from leaving the scene before an officer arrives to take over responsibility.


In the UK security guards have the same authority and privileges as any other citizen. They do not have the same level of authority or perks as the police force. Their mere existence serves as a deterrent to would-be offenders, but if a scenario develops, be ready to deal with it quickly and calmly.

Shergroup is a renowned security provider and is well versed in the legalities of security in the state of Florida, the USA, and the UK. Because of their industry-leading standing, you can expect that when you entrust Shergroup with your security needs, both individuals and businesses will be fully protected by the law, and their security guards will be working within their legal scope.

If you need further advice on developing a security strategy for your business including CCTV and monitored alarms, K9 security and mobile patrols, contact us at Shergroup. We’d be more than happy to work alongside you and protect your business, employees, and visitors.

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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