Arkansas Safe Haven Laws

The Safe Haven Act of Arkansas was enacted in the year 2001.  According to the Act, any parent may relinquish his/her infant who is not older than 30 days to any law enforcement agency such as a police force on duty, or any medical provider which employs or contracts with a physician licensed under the Medical Procedures Act.  However, the relinquishment and subsequent possession should be in accordance with relevant state laws.

Any medical provider or law enforcement agency may take possession of an infant without a court order if an infant is not older than 30 days and is delivered to medical provider or law enforcement agency voluntarily by its parents.  Additionally, parent must not have intent to take back the infant.[i]  The term ‘law enforcement agency’ as defined in A.C.A. § 9-34-201 shall mean any police force or organization on 24 hour duty responsible for enforcing criminal, traffic or highway laws and ‘medical provider’ shall mean emergency department of any hospital.  The law specifically states:

(1) “Law enforcement agency” means any police force or organization whose primary responsibility as established by law or ordinance is the enforcement of the criminal, traffic, or highway laws of this state as defined in § 12-9-301 and that is staffed twenty-four (24) hours a day; and

(2) “Medical provider” means any emergency department of a hospital licensed under § 20-9-214.

On delivery of an infant to any medical provider/law enforcement agency:

  • Law enforcement officer or an appropriate hospital employee shall take the infant into protective custody for seventy two hours under the Child Maltreatment Act.[ii]
  • Law enforcement officer or an appropriate hospital employee taking possession of infant shall immediately notify the Division of Children and Family Services of the Department of Human Services.[iii]
  • Medical service provider or law enforcement agency taking possession of the infant shall perform all acts necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the child.[iv]

On receiving a notification from any law enforcement officer or hospital employee taking possession of infant, the Division of Children and Family Service of the Department of Human Services shall initiate a dependency petition pursuant to the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989.[v]  The department shall also initiate steps to find out if the abandoned infant is a missing child.  To that end, the department shall utilize the Missing Persons Information Clearinghouse and other state and national resources to collect necessary information.[vi]

Medical provider or law enforcement agency taking possession of infant shall be immune from civil or criminal liability for good faith acts or omissions performed: a) while taking possession of infant; and b) while performing any acts necessary to protect the health and safety of infant. [vii]

Any parent who voluntarily delivers a child to any law enforcement officer or medical provider; or who voluntarily designates another person to deliver infant to any law enforcement officer or medical provider has an affirmative defense to prosecution.  However, delivery of infant should be according to relevant laws.  Parents may not raise affirmative defense to prosecution for any acts other than delivery of infant.  Affirmative defense is also not applicable for gross or negligent acts committed by parents before delivery of infant.[viii]

[i] A.C.A. § 9-34-202

[ii] A.C.A. § 9-34-203

[iii] A.C.A. § 9-34-203

[iv] A.C.A. § 9-34-202

[v] A.C.A. § 9-34-203

[vi] A.C.A. § 9-34-204

[vii] A.C.A. § 9-34-202

[viii] A.C.A. § 5-27-205


Inside Arkansas Safe Haven Laws