Powers of security guards and bouncers

Security guards or bouncers are employed in privately-owned spaces, such as shopping centres or nightclubs, to enforce the rules of the owner. Security guards and bouncers are licensed by the state government, but do not have the same powers as police.

The person who owns the space decides on what the rules will be and the security guard or bouncer enforces them. However, this does not mean that they can break the law.

This page will help you to understand more about the powers of security guards and bouncers on private property. (Information about security officers employed on public transport is under Powers of Transit Officers.) Find out:

  • If they can arrest you
  • If you have to go with them when they ask you
  • If you have to give your name or any other details
  • If they can search you or your property
  • What is a banning notice?
  • What is a Prohibition Order?

Can a security guard or bouncer arrest me?

Security guards and bouncers have no greater arrest powers than an ordinary citizen. They can carry out a citizen’s arrest if they suspect you are committing an offence, including shoplifting or damaging property. They do not have to wait for you to leave a store if they suspect you have stolen something.

Do I have to go with a security guard or bouncer if they ask me to?

Not if they haven’t arrested you. But they can ask you to leave a premises on behalf of the owner, or refuse to let you inside, for a number of reasons. If you don’t leave when they ask you to, you may be trespassing and they can use reasonable force to remove you.

If you are under citizen’s arrest, they can detain you for as long as reasonably necessary for the police to arrive, but can only use reasonable force to do so.

Do I have to give my name or any other details to a security guard or bouncer?

You don’t need to give any details to a security guard or bouncer unless:

  • you are trespassing, or
  • if an employee of a licensed premises (place that sells or serves alcohol) believes you are under 18.

Anything you tell a security guard or bouncer can be used against you in court.

A licensed premises can also ask you to show ID (eg a driver’s licence) and make a copy when you go into a pub or nightclub.

Can a security guard or bouncer search me or my property?

No, even if there is a sign stating that it is a condition of entry. But if you refuse to let them do a search, they may ask you to leave or refuse entry. Refusing to let a security guard to search your bags before leaving a store might mean a security guard has more reason to suspect you have stolen something, and perform a citizen's arrest.

What is a banning notice?

Shopping centre management, staff, security guards and bouncers can issue written banning notices to stop you from being in certain private places. This could be an individual shop, a chain or franchise of stores, or an entire shopping centre. They cannot ban you if it breaks anti-discrimination laws, or try to stop you being on public land. You can be charged with an offence if you breach a banning notice.

What is a Prohibition Order?

The police can apply for an order banning you from entering or working at licensed premises. This could be a single place, a type of pub or club, or all licensed premises. Police may apply for a Prohibition Order if you have a history of violent or anti-social behaviour at licensed premises, or because of concerns about involvement with serious and organised crime.  You can be charged with an offence if you breach a Prohibition Order.


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.