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In general in the US, a licensed Security Guard can arrest a person under the same power that any private individual has to arrest another private individual under the clause of “Citizen’s Arrest”. Having said this there are some variations in the statutes of specific states that provides additional powers to licensed security guards.
To see the specific state level laws in the US, please review the Power to Arrest – State Specific Status section below.
When arresting, the Security Guard can also restrain the person, as long as the restraint is reasonable.
A Citizen’s Arrest is valid when a person has demonstrably committed a crime and is trying to flee the scene. In these situations, a Security Guard (or any civilian) can detain the person until police arrives.
Does the Security Guard have the same power to arrest as that of a police officer?
No. A police officer may arrest a person when the police officer has an arrest warrant against the person, or when the police officer has reasonable cause to believe the person has committed a crime or public offense. Now, there are two scenarios to consider:
- If the offence committed is a felony or there is probable cause to believe the person committed the felony, then the police officer need not witness the crime to arrest the person.
- If the offense is not a felony, then the police officer must have witnessed the offense to make the arrest.
So, then what are the differences between a Security Guard and a police officer in their powers to arrest?
Regarding the power to arrest, a Security Guard has only the same power as a private individual even though the Security Guard wears a uniform. The Security Guard can arrest a person only after person has committed a felony. He cannot arrest a person under the possible suspicion of committing a crime.
A clear example for this scenario is that a Security Guard cannot arrest someone who might be shoplifting but has not tried to leave the store with the stolen property.
If the offense is not a felony, it must be committed or at least attempted in the presence of the Security Guard before a Citizen’s Arrest can be made.
The key difference is, as described above, a police officer can arrest a person for a felony as long as the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the person has committed the felony, whether or not the felony actually occurred.
Can a Security Guard seek help from a private individual when making a Citizen’s Arrest?
Yes, a Security Guard can ask for assistance from other Security Guards or other private individuals in making the Citizen’s Arrest.
He can also contact the police and ask the police officer to make the Citizen’s Arrest on behalf of the Security Guard – but when the police officer is arresting a person, it is no longer a Citizen’s Arrest.
What steps the Security Guard must take when making a Citizen’s Arrest?
While making the Citizen’s Arrest, the Security Guard must clearly tell the person who is being arrested that he is being arrested. The Guard also should tell the person, the reason for the arrest and the authority under which he is making the arrest.
The Security Guard must follow these steps, except in scenarios where the person being arrested is in the middle of committing the crime or in the middle of attempting to commit the crime, or the person is being pursued by the Security Guard immediately after him committing a crime.
However, once the offender is caught and being restrained, they must be told what the offense is for which they are being arrested.
What should the Security Guard do after making a Citizen’s Arrest?
The Security Guard must call the police immediately. As soon as the police arrive, he should turn the person arrested over to a police officer. The Security Guard also should report the offense committed by the person to the police officer and also file a formal criminal complaint.
Will there be any difference if the perpetrator of the crime was carrying a weapon?
Normally a Security Guard cannot perform a body search without the permission of the person being searched, even if there is a strong suspicion that the person is in possession of a stolen property.
However, if the person is carrying a weapon, or there is reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying a weapon, then the Security Guard making the Citizen’s Arrest can search and disarm the person while they are making the arrest.
Power to Arrest – State Specific StatutesWe will adding more state specific statutes for the other US states soon.
- South Carolina In the State of South Carolina, there is additional authority and arrest powers for those licensed or registered as a Private Security Officer.
In South Carolina, a person who is registered or licensed as a Private Security Officer and who is hired or employed to provide security services on a specific property, they are granted the authority and arrest powers given to sheriff’s deputies.
The Security Officer may arrest a person violating or charged with violating a criminal statute of South Carolina. But they can exercise this powers of arrest only on the property on which they are employed.