Many people have misconceptions about what bouncers are legally allowed to do. Contrary to popular belief and the way they are portrayed in the media, bouncers are not free to engage in excessive force or violence as they see fit.
Generally speaking, bouncers can only use force if it is first used against them. These are the same rights as any ordinary citizen (i.e. the right to self-defense). On the other hand, bouncers are legally allowed to perform such tasks as:
- Issue verbal warnings
- Ask you to leave
- Check for ID
- Refuse entry if the patron is too intoxicated, fails to comply with establishment policies, or engages in aggressive behavior
- Call the police
- Protect innocent bystanders from violence
- Break up fights that are not involved in
- Respond with equal force if necessary
Most bouncers are trained to remedy situations through verbal communication rather than physical force. Often times their presence alone is enough to deter patrons from aggressive behavior.
What Are Bouncers Not Entitled to Do?
Bouncers are not entitled to engage in the use of force unless they are first threatened with physical harm. Thus, unless they are approached with physical threats of harm, bouncers are not entitled to:
- Strike a patron with a punch or kick
- Push or physically throw a person out of the establishment
- Restrain them in a chokeholds, “joint locks”, or other techniques
- Use weapons or pepper spray
In other words, bouncers are simply ordinary persons who are subject to both criminal laws as well as civil personal injury laws. If you have been treated aggressively by a bouncer for no reason, you may have a basis for a lawsuit, and the bouncer might even be held criminally liable.
What Do I Do If a Bouncer Wrongfully Assaulted Me?
If you feel that you have an assault claim against a bouncer or the establishment that employed the bouncer, you may be entitled to a monetary damages award to reimburse you for your losses. If so, you should take the following steps:
- Make a written report of the incident while it’s still fresh in your mind. Take note of dates, times, and the address where it happened. Be sure to describe the incident itself, the circumstances leading up to the assault, and anything that happened afterwards
- If you needed medical attention, keep copies of hospital records, medical documents and receipts. These will be used in case the court needs to calculate a damages award for your losses
- If your injuries caused you to miss work, you might be able to file for lost wages. Keep copies of your pay stubs
- Request and keep copies of any police reports that were made
- Take down important contact information for the bouncer as well as any witnesses to the incident
Finally, most establishments require bouncers to make written incident reports, especially where they have used force. You should inquire as to whether an incident report was made, and request a copy. If the establishment is unwilling to provide an existing report, you may need to file a motion with a court to compel them to produce it.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have a Legal Dispute with a Bouncer?
Bouncers are necessary for the operation of some businesses. However, their scope of authority is much more limited than most people believe. If you are unclear as to what bouncers are legally allowed to do, you may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer for advice. Your lawyer will be able to help you file a claim in court, and can provide you with representation during the process. In most cases a damages award may be issued for injuries caused by a bouncer.