Bouncers, or nightclub security, do not have the same rights as the police or actual security personnel. They do not have the right to physically remove a person from the premises of the club, but this is a very common misconception. Bouncers do not have the legal right to engage in violence or force as they see fit. In general, bouncers are regular employees, not actual security personnel. Actual security personnel require special training and permits.
Bouncers are only allowed to use force if it is first used against them. Therefore, according to law, a bouncer may only ask you to leave the premises. They do not have the right to physically remove a customer. These same rights to self defense are granted to ordinary citizens, as is the right to call the police on someone.
However, there are a few other legal rights granted to bouncers, that are not necessarily granted to ordinary citizens, including:
- The right to issue a verbal warning;
- The right to ask that you leave the premises;
- The right to check your ID;
- The right to refuse entry to any patron who appears to be too intoxicated, fails to comply with establishment policies, or engages in violent, disruptive, or aggressive behavior;
- The right to protect innocent bystanders from violence;
- The right to break up fights that they themselves are not involved in;
- The right to respond with equal force, if necessary; and
- The right to detain someone if they are committing a crime, but only with reasonable restraint.
Typically, bouncers are trained to remedy situations verbally as opposed to utilizing physical force; their presence alone is enough to deter patrons from aggressive behavior. This is partially due to many people assuming bouncers have more legal rights than they actually do.
As previously mentioned, bouncers do not have the legal right to physically remove a person from the premises. They also do not have any legal right to engage in force, except in specific circumstances, such as first being threatened with physical harm. Some examples of what bouncers cannot do, unless first threatened, include:
- Striking a patron (this includes punching and kicking);
- Pushing or physically throwing a person out of the establishment (they may only ask that you leave while “guiding” you to the door);
- Restraining patrons in chokeholds, “joint locks,” or any other techniques that would be considered unreasonable; or
- Using weapons (including nightsticks, pepper spray, etc.).
Once again, bouncers do not really have more legal rights than ordinary citizens, except under specific circumstances. Bouncers do not necessarily have more legal rights to force than a common employee; they must be specially trained and licensed in order to be considered security personnel (thereby gaining more legal rights). They are simply ordinary employees who are still subject to both criminal laws and civil personal injury laws.
A bouncer has no more right to physically assault someone than anyone else does. However, they have the same right as you do to defend themselves, if first threatened with physical harm. Thus, if you have been asked to leave the premises and you refuse, punching the bouncers who approach you, the bouncers will likely be able to claim self defense if they choose to return your physical attacks. It is important to not give them any excuse to attack you, such as spitting on them or shoving them.
There is always an exception to be made if there was an unnecessary amount of security assaulting you (an exaggerated example would be ten bouncers to one patron). Since they are average citizens, and not trained police or security personnel, they are subject to the same claims of assault and battery.
If you have actually been assaulted by a bouncer, it is important to remember to consider including the employer, such as the bar or nightclub where the incident occurred, in your lawsuit. This is important because although the bouncer is certainly liable for the damages, they may not be able to pay up. The business that employs the bouncer may be liable for guest injuries on the property that were caused by a bar employee’s negligence, under a legal theory of vicarious liability.
Here are some suggested actions to take if you were assaulted by a bouncer:
- Make a written report of the incident while it’s still fresh in your mind. Note dates, times, and the address where the incident took place. Describe the incident itself, specify any circumstances leading to the assault, and anything relevant that happened after the incident (such as seeking medical attention for injuries received as a result of the assault);
- Should you seek medical attention, retain copies of any hospital records, medical documents, and receipts you receive. If the court needs to calculate a damages award for your losses, they will utilize these copies;
- If you sustained injuries that resulted in you missing work, you may be able to file for lost wages as well. In order to do this, you will need to provide copies of your pay stubs, and possibly your timesheets;
- It is imperative to request and keep copies of any police reports that were made, as well as any waivers or paperwork you signed, such as a statement from the business where the incident occurred; and
- Note any contact information you can gather, such as from the bouncer and any witnesses to the incident.
In addition to any police reports that were made, a more specific example of paperwork that you should obtain is a written incident report from the establishment in which the incident occurred. Most establishments will require their bouncers to make a written incident report, especially when they needed to use force. Ask if a report was made, and request a copy of the report for yourself. If they are unwilling to provide you with a copy of the report, you may need to file a motion with a court in order to obtain it as evidence.
Bouncers, while necessary to operate some businesses, have a limited scope of authority. If you were assaulted by a bouncer, a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney will help you determine if you have legal grounds to file a suit. Additionally, an experienced attorney will help you file your claim in court, as well as represent you throughout the entire process.