Are you required to comply with a police officer's order to put your baby down in an uncertain situation and allow yourself to be handcuffed?

I am thinking of the recent incident in Phoenix. Although I could not watch the whole video, I am told that at one point, the officer ordered the mother to put her baby down. I can't imagine Mom was able to think about the law at that point, but it made me wonder: is there any scenario where it's legal for an officer to make that demand?

Why it's not a duplicate:

The other question to which this seems to be a duplicate is a broader question. The answers addressed personal rights: consent to search, right to remain silent, and broader subjects. None of these apply--nor can they be extended to apply--to my specific question.

  • 7
    I feel like there's a ton of missing context here. Of course it's lawful - they can't affect an arrest if you're holding a child in your arms. Having a child doesn't make you exempt from arrest. What about the situation makes you wonder why the police might not have the authority? Was she being asked to place the baby on the pavement? Are you wondering what would happen to the child after the arrest? What constitutes an "uncertain situation"?
    – animuson
    Jun 18, 2019 at 5:25
  • 8
    "I didn't think the police would be allowed to make you let go of it" Seriously? Sorry but this question is just ridiculous. Unless there is obvious harm that would hurt the child if it is put down on the ground (e.g. the ground is infested with poisonous snakes/insects) your "Anything could happen" does not apply. Otherwise every bank robber would do their job with a baby on their hands to walk away freely when the police arrives.
    – Greendrake
    Jun 18, 2019 at 6:07
  • 2
    @Greendrake I meant no offense. I ask your forgiveness. Jun 18, 2019 at 6:31
  • 6
    I think there actually is a reasonable question hidden in here: What special precautions does the police have to take when they arrest someone who has an infant in their care and there is nobody else around to take care of that infant?
    – Philipp
    Jun 18, 2019 at 13:24
  • 1
    If you go search on Youtube for it, there is video of a segment of Dateline's To Catch A Predator where one of the suspects brought his toddler age child to the decoy house they were using. They show footage of how the police handle the situation, which amounted to one officer loudly and forcefully ordering the kid to walk to him and then he removed the child from visibily seeing his father arrested. Cops tend to have some cool stuff they can entertain kids with, if that merely amounts to letting them turn on sirens and will work closely with Child Protective Services.
    – hszmv
    Jun 18, 2019 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


Are you required to comply with a police officer's order to put your baby down in an uncertain situation and allow yourself to be handcuffed?

Of course. If holding a baby could immunize people against arrest, every criminal would have a baby around whenever possible.

Similarly, suppose an officer legitimately fears for his or her life or safety, or the lives or safety of others, on the basis of a suspicion that someone carrying a baby is about to produce a weapon and use it against someone.

Courts, at least in the US, give wide and explicit deference to police officers in stressful situations like that, and they recognize that even if, in hindsight, it is perfectly clear that there was no danger, the officer must be allowed the leeway to act on his or her suspicions in case they are correct.

The officer will of course have some obligations to ensure the welfare of the child after separation from the adult, but the only immediate recourse the adult has is to appeal to the officer directly, or perhaps the officer's supervisor if he or she is available. Any other enforcement of the officer's obligation will have to take place in the courts after the fact.


Unlawful orders do not need to be obeyed. Put your baby down while stopped on the side of a freeway could be considered an unlawful order. However, as @phoog mentionedm above orders from cops, who have qualified immunity, unions, and judicial deference, should be obeyed unless you truly believe obeying would be illegal or dangerous.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .