Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Security Guards

1    What powers does a security guard have?
2    Can a security guard search me?
3    Can they arrest me?   
4    Can a security guard kick me out of a shopping centre or a shop?  
5    Can I banned from a shopping centre or a shop?   
6    What should I do if I think a security guard has done the wrong thing?    


1    What powers does a security guard have?

You may have to deal with security guards or bouncers at shopping centres, concerts, nightclubs, pubs or anytime you want to go onto someone else’s property. Security guards usually work for the owner of a shop or nightclub, or the organiser of a concert. 

Security guards and bouncers are not police officers, and they do not have the same powers as the police. A bouncer is really just a security guard employed by a licensed venue like a pub or club.

Security guards and bouncers in South Australia are required by law to obtain a license.

Security guards are hired by property owners to do things like:
•    Protecting or guarding property, or keeping it under surveillance,
•    Preventing, detecting or investigating crimes in relation to a property,
•    Controlling crowds.

If a security guard wants you to do something, you have a right to ask their name and what capacity they’re acting in.


2    Can a security guard search me?

A security guard or bouncer cannot search you without your permission. However, many places (including shops, shopping centres, pubs and clubs) might have owners’ rules requiring you to consent to searches. If you don’t consent then you might be refused entry or asked to leave.


3    Can they arrest me?

A security guard or bouncer may arrest and detain you if you are in the act of committing, or have just committed an offence involving stealing, hurting anyone, interfering with or damaging property or a crime that has more than 2 year jail time on it. This covers a lot of different situations! A security guard or bouncer can only use reasonable force to make the arrest.

Normally, a security guard or bouncer making an arrest must tell you that you are under arrest and why you are being arrested.

What happens after you are arrested?

A security guard or bouncer who arrests you must deliver you into the custody of a police officer as soon as possible.

If you feel that a security guard or bouncer arrested you unlawfully, contact a lawyer.

What if you witness a crime?

If you think you have witnessed a crime occurring, you should contact the police. It is not a good idea to make a citizen’s arrest yourself.

Even if you are only trying to help, arresting someone without a good reason can leave you facing charges of your own and it can be dangerous.


4    Can a security guard kick me out of a shopping centre or a shop?

A security guard can ask you to leave, if you fail to do so, you’ll be guilty of trespassing. They are allowed to ask your name and address, you must answer.

You can be fined for failing to leave or giving a fake name or address, and also for behaving in an offensive way or using offensive language while trespassing.

A bouncer can ask to see identification proving that you’re over 18. That goes for any licensed premises, not just pubs and clubs. If you refuse to show them your id, or you’re under 18, a bouncer may use reasonable force to remove you from the premises.


5    Can I banned from a shopping centre or a shop?

There are no laws about banning a customer from a shop, so there is no limit on how long a ban can last, how the ban can be issued, or the reasons for banning someone. This means a manager of a shop or shopping centre can ban a customer for all kinds of reasons, including if they believe a customer has been rude or disruptive.

However, shops are not allowed to discriminate against customers based on certain characteristics, including age.

If you’re received a banning notice, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you more information on what your options are.


6    What should I do if I think a security guard has done the wrong thing?

If you have a problem with a security guard, it’s a good idea to:
•    ask them for their full name and identification number (you can save it in your notes on your phone),
•    write down anything you remember about the situation, including dates, times and what you did and what they said,
•    take pictures on your phone of any injuries that happen to you.

If you believe a security guard or bouncer has wrongly arrested or detained you, you might consider suing them for ‘false imprisonment’, for which you would be compensated.

You can also make a complaint to the Commissioner if you believe a security guard or bouncer has done the wrong thing. You can call them on 131 882 or visit: https://www.cbs.sa.gov.au/contact-us/

NCYLC would like to express thanks to the law clerks and volunteers who assisted with the preparation of this material: Rahul Arora, Ed Slattery, Sebastian Hanscomb, Jaspreet Nagra.

This page was last updated in January 2017.