Security Guard Detain

A security guard is generally charged with the protection of a retail store or those stores located inside in a shopping mall. This being the case, the guard has the authority to attempt to prevent the commission of crimes on the premises and to take some type of action when crimes are discovered. To find out precisely what types of actions are allowable under the law in such cases, continue reading below, where you'll find information that touches on the legal jurisdiction security guards have, as well as what is outside their jurisdiction.

The Authority of Security Officers

In a nutshell, a security guards at a store or a shopping mall has the authority to detain someone in those situations where, according to their judgment, probable cause exists that shoplifting or some other crime has been committed. There are some caveats to this general statement, however, because any detention must be performed reasonably and only for a reasonable duration of time.

There are three important phrases associated with security guard authority that bear closer examination. The first of these is 'probable cause', which in practical terms means that a security guard must actually observe someone in the act of concealing merchandise and leaving the premises. The 'reasonable manner' part of this authority definition refers to doing no more than requesting ID from the suspect, patting down the suspect to find any weapons, and using handcuffs only if the situation warrants it.

Strictly outside the authority of any security guard is the use of excessive force. The definition of excessive force includes choking, improper handcuff use, the application of pain, verbal threats, and possibly even discriminatory slurs. The last of the phrases, 'reasonable time', means that the suspect can be detained only for as long as it takes for police to arrive.

Know the Security Guard’s Jurisdiction

A security guard, just like a private citizen, has the power to invoke the Citizens Arrest clause, and legally arrest a person who is in the act of committing a crime. Even so, it's always best to contact the local authorities as soon as possible, so they can arrive at the scene to proceed with a formal arrest. There are also state-by-state specifications about the jurisdiction of security guards and what they can and can't do.

This is always somewhat shaky ground, so it's best if security guards don't make arrests unless the situation is clear cut and authorities are immediately informed. If it turns out that the arrest was not made legally, the security guard and the company he/she works for can both be sued for false arrest.

Security guards are generally charged with protecting private property for an individual or a company, so it is completely outside the jurisdiction of a security guard, even if they observe a crime in process, if it occurs outside the premises of that property. In such situations, the security guard would still have the option of contacting local police to inform them of the crime in process.

What If Security Tries to Detain You?

When a security guard unreasonably detains you, it opens the door to litigation on your part against that security guard. You may be able to sue for false arrest, assault, excessive use of force, malicious prosecution, or false imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of your detention. You may also be entitled to sue the company that the security guard works for if circumstances warrant it.

When a security guard has detained you and you feel that there was no probable cause, or that your detention was performed in an unreasonable manner, or for an unreasonable amount of time, you should probably seek legal advice. A professional criminal lawyer will be able to explain to you what your rights are under such conditions, and whether or not it's to your advantage to take legal action.

You may receive some compensation for the unreasonable detention you had to undergo. Keep in mind that any kind of legal action is premised on the fact that your detention was unjustified – if the security guard had probable cause, and detained you in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable amount of time, they would be protected by law.

Legal Limitations of Security Guards

There are many legal restrictions that are placed on security guards to ensure that they carry out only the duties they are legally charged with, and do not exceed their legitimate authority. As mentioned previously, security guards can only make arrests when there is probable cause to do so, and then only for a reasonable amount of time and in a reasonable manner.

A security guard is not allowed to use any type of excessive force or choking in the detention of a suspect, and the guard could be subject to legal action if this line is crossed. A security guard is also prohibited from using any kind of racial slurs or excessive profanity in the detention process. When handcuffs are used, they must be applied in a reasonable manner which causes no pain to the suspect.

It's also important that a security guard call the authorities immediately when it appears that a crime has been committed. If the guard spends an excessive amount of time in a personal effort to investigate the situation, and doesn't call authorities right away, that would violate the reasonable time clause associated with the power of detention.

When to Call a Lawyer

If a security guard has detained you for a store or shopping mall and you feel that any of the three main factors involved in such detention were violated, you may have grounds for contacting your lawyer. If you feel the guard used excessive force in carrying out your detention, or if you were choked in some way during the act of detention, these are illegal acts, and you would be within your right to litigate.

If the guard used foul language or any kind of racial slurs during the act of detention, this is also considered illegal and could be grounds for suing the guard. In general, anytime a security guard exceeds their authority while attempting to detain a suspect, there may be grounds for litigation, and that's when you should call your lawyer.