In the following video, the narrative is that the police asked the young man to switch off his phone. He refused. They asked him to sit down. He refused. They then used violence to put him on the ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-QLZNTjqOQ

Do people have to comply with a policeman's order to sit on the ground?

2 Answers 2


You can be under arrest before you are handcuffed and the police officially read you your rights. The problem from the citizen perspective is that there is no bright line test that tells you whether you are under arrest, and the courts can find that there was no arrest at a point where the suspect was handcuffed and confined to the back of a police car (United States v. Bullock, 632 F.3d 1004) – you can be merely "detained" for an investigatory stop while in cuffs. One test that might be used is asking if you are free to go about your business. A reasonable person could decide whether they were under arrest by the nature of what the officer says. For example, if he says "It would help us if you could stand over there" or "...if you could sit down", it is reasonable to conclude that this is an urging but not a command. On the other hand, if he says "Sit down, now!", it is unreasonable to think that that is a mere suggestion or plea, it is an order.

There is no specific Arizona law that says when police can order you to do something, nor is there a specific law saying that force may only be used in such-and-such circumstance. There generally are guidelines for police conduct, and the guidelines tend to grant much leeway to officers (until it gets to be a recurring problem and the guidelines are changed). An example is Seattle, whose police manual reduces the question to the statement that "An officer shall use only the force reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to effectively bring an incident or person under control, while protecting the lives of the officer or others". But this does not say whether one must obey police orders.

In Oregon v. Ruggles the court sympathetically notes that

Whether a particular police order is “lawful” is frequently a complex question involving some of the most vexing and intractable issues in constitutional law.   For example, a police order such as “Stop!” can be an unlawful seizure of a person under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, depending on whether the order is accompanied by a sufficient show of authority and the officer who issues the order is subsequently found to have lacked reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity was afoot.

But Oregon has a statute, ORS 162.247(1)(b), requiring you to obey a lawful order by police. The court found that you don't have to know whether the order is lawful. Arizona has a related statute, ARS 13-2508 where resisting is defined as

intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a person reasonably known to him to be a peace officer, acting under color of such peace officer's official authority, from effecting an arrest

including the means of "Engaging in passive resistance" (which is "a nonviolent physical act or failure to act that is intended to impede, hinder or delay the effecting of an arrest"). Arizona law frames the resisting crime in terms of "effecting arrest", which is different from what Oregon law says:

(a) Intentionally acts in a manner that prevents, or attempts to prevent, a peace officer or parole and probation officer from performing the lawful duties of the officer with regards to another person; or

(b) Refuses to obey a lawful order by the peace officer or parole and probation officer.

But even if an individual in Arizona is not chargeable with resisting arrest for failing to sit (because the officers were not effecting an arrest), that does not mean that police cannot order you to sit – it just means that it's not a separate crime to fail to comply.


13-409. Justification; use of physical force in law enforcement

A person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another if in making or assisting in making an arrest or detention or in preventing or assisting in preventing the escape after arrest or detention of that other person, such person uses or threatens to use physical force and all of the following exist:

  1. A reasonable person would believe that such force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or detention or prevent the escape.

  2. Such person makes known the purpose of the arrest or detention or believes that it is otherwise known or cannot reasonably be made known to the person to be arrested or detained.

  3. A reasonable person would believe the arrest or detention to be lawful.

So while I didn't watch the video, (because I can't remember my password) police actually do have laws that tell them when and when they cannot use force. Before an officer uses force he has to tell you why you are to be detained... whether that be for mere questioning.. or an actual offense. If force is used before this is done then the officer would be officially be guilty in the use of excessive force.

Furthermore, 13-3888. Method of arrest by officer without warrant

When making an arrest without a warrant, the officer shall inform the person to be arrested of his authority and the cause of the arrest, unless the person to be arrested is then engaged in the commission of an offense, or is pursued immediately after its commission or after an escape, or flees or forcibly resists before the officer has opportunity so to inform him, or when the giving of such information will imperil the arrest.

An officer has to inform you of their authority, and if you have otherwise given reason to believe that such information could imperil the arrest, you should be able to reasonably go peacefully.

A highly questionable aspect about this is what's left to the judgment of an officer as to what is immediately necessary to affect an arrest, and from that what could have set into commencement unnecessary action. Regardless, they have no right to the use of force where it is not immediately necessary. Even after you are informed that you are to be detained you should be able to free from physical interaction with the officers so long as you follow their verbal commands.

  • You appear to be citing some statutes. Can you please edit your answer to clarify: (1) what jurisdiction(s) those statute apply to, (2) where they can be found online, and (3) if any of your content is a quote from the statute, format it accordingly? Also, there are other questions to which this answer would be more directly applicable: this one, for example and the five linked questions there. Finally: please take the tour to familiarize yourself with the basics of Stack Exchange Q&A.
    – feetwet
    Apr 24, 2019 at 15:01
  • This seems to com from azleg.gov/ars/13/00409.htm Apr 24, 2019 at 15:32

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