Angelo Cervantes, Left, Raul E Herrera (Fiancée of Sophia) Right

When a warrant was served in an Idaho murder case on December 3, 2014, a woman, one of the suspects’ fiancee, Sophia D. Sanchez, was just leaving the house. She was questioned before being read her Miranda rights. She refused to answer questions until her attorney was present. The detective continued to question her. Her lawyer claims that she was coerced into talking. From idahostatesman.com . . .

Ackley claims Nampa Detective Mark Palfreyman coerced Sanchez into talking with him. Palfreyman noted that Sanchez’s 16-month-old baby was her top priority and that the detective wanted to make sure she was able to remain with the infant. He suggested, Ackley wrote, that was contingent on her cooperation.

Police ordered Sanchez to accompany them to the Nampa Police Department, where she was questioned for three hours before being allowed to leave. During questioning, she admitted to possessing a .22-caliber pistol found in a bedroom closet. She was arrested and charged later that night, after police stopped her while driving with Herrera.

The claim resonates with me because I was peripherally involved in a case where a similar tactic was said to have been used. A local whistle-blower was arrested on a domestic violence charge when his wife, a Mexican national, imprudently called police during an argument. I recall being told that she had thrown water on him, or some other minor event. In any case, she refused to have a protective order taken out against him… until the police threatened to take her children unless she did so.

He was immediately evicted from the house, his guns confiscated, and he was left to shift for himself in the 100 degree plus Yuma summer. Coordination on their case was difficult because the protective order did not allow them to communicate.

I heard that they eventually won the case, and he was not convicted. I became interested in the threat of taking away a woman’s children to coerce cooperation. I asked a prominent local attorney and friend if the tactic was common.  He said that it depended on the jurisdiction. He opined that in Somerton, a few miles South, it probably happened in 50% of the cases where women with children became involved in the criminal justice system.

And in Yuma, I asked?  In Yuma, he said, it happened in all the cases that he had knowledge of.

He clarified that this was merely a threat, and he did not know of cases where it was carried out. He said that one of his clients was tough, and dared the officers to have her kids taken. They never did. But the point, it seemed to me, was that this was a very potent threat used to coerce women into doing things that they otherwise would not do. It seemed a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

I am curious about how this case will play out in Idaho. Police are allowed to lie to suspects in order to obtain confessions. Are they allowed to lie about threats in order to do so? If a threat seems plausible, is it coercion? While it should not make a difference in Sophia’s case, her fiancee, Herrera, was found guilty of all charges, and his co-defendant plead guilty to first degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated assault.

Sophia faces up to 10 years in prison on  the firearms charge.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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56 Responses to Idaho Lawyer: Threat to Take Infant Invalidates Gun Charge

  1. Rule #1, cops are not there to help you and they are not your friends.
    Rule #2, Never speak except to say, I want to call my lawyer.

    • Question is, does the end justify the means. They were after her boyfriend who was convicted of murder (killed a man for refusing to buy prescription drugs). Police had a warrant but didn’t tell her. Cops leverage her for information and completely legal.

    • Rule #3: A man who would threaten your children in an attempt to coerce you into surrendering your civil rights is a man that no jury I’m a member of will ever convict you of killing.

      • Then you are too smart for a jury. Even worse, you might use jury nullification and fail to convict someone of violating an asinine law. Therefore, you will be replaced by an idiot in the jury selection process – probably someone who has been thoroughly indoctrinated by the public education system.

      • I don’t think that rule applies. They didn’t threaten the child, but threatened to take the child away from the fiancee and out of the home of a wanted drug-dealer and killer.

        • And threatening to take a kid away from his parents/mom,is not threatening him/her? You think they asked the kid whether he wanted to stay with mommy or the friendly CPS careerist pedophile first?

      • Folk in this blog know I’m not a fan of cops. I explored those feelings with a 25 year old scotch trying to reach a self actualization moment.
        I think law abiders have no idea what cops have to do and why we frame interaction with them referencing how we perceive they should act. Square that with the lying, stealing, drug peddling murdering bastards they have to deal with…so lying and coercing is part of the job. Ms. Sanchez perceived a truth, what she does with perception is for her to worry about and the blogsphere to pontificate.

        Doesn’t mean I’m man hugging the boys in blue, but can accept skulduggery in the investigation and apprehension of criminals.

        • So where does this line end? The cops are out of control the way it is. Innocent people buckle and agree to all sorts of nefarious cop schemes when they either were not guilty or guilty of a much more minor infraction.

        • So it doesn’t matter when the innocent public get’s fvcked over? Gotta break eggs to make an omelet? That mentality is the enemy of freedom.

        • In agree, once again, with Indy Tom. Where does this “ends justify the means” road end? A lot of these investigators will pursue a suspect to get evidence to convict instead of pursuing evidence to get a suspect to convict. THAT is guilty until proven innocent, which is not what we are supposed to be guaranteed by the government. I believe that police should not lie. If investigators can’t get a conviction on the merits of the evidence then that is on them.
          I understand that police are working against liars and cheaters and general lawbreakers, but if they are allowed to use coercion and lies to convict committears of crimes what will stop them from using such means against the innocent?

        • One problem with sanctioning police to lie to and coerce suspects is it conditions them that it’s okay to be dishonest, as long as “the ends justify the means”. But then we expect them to be 100% honest and truthful when they’re in front of a judge asking for a warrant, or testifying in front of a jury. That seems a little unrealistic to me.

      • A former boss who I held in high regard was a brigade commander. I noticed he was never asked to sit on courts martial and I asked him why that was. He replied, “Guilty, Max”. When questioned by the defense he would always say, “I believe the Provost Marshal usually brings the responsible party to trial, and I believe that if you are guilty you deserve the maximum punishment allowed.” Strangely, JAG wasn’t interested in his services. 🙂

        I’m not a huge fan of officers in general, but I respected the hell out of this guy. He retired with 3 stars.

  2. Weapons charge? For owning a .22 calibre pistol?

    Didn’t know Idaho was one of those states.

    Someone please enlighten me.

    • The Statesman: “Sanchez was convicted in 2010 in federal court in Boise for unlawful possession of a firearm”. I don’t know if that was warranted, but it likely triggered the charge in this case and the possible 10 year sentence.

      • So I guess Idaho is one of “those states.” If it wasn’t, there would simply not be such a charge as “unlawful possession of firearms.”

  3. Considering she was charged in 2010 with unlawful possession of a firearm (it’s in the Idaho Statesman article and hence the possibility of a long sentence for the .22) and was living with a murder suspect, it might have been prudent in this case to put the child in protective custody. And, if that is a viable option, I don’t see a problem with using it as a tool to get information regarding a serious crime.

    • If the children belong in protective custody, you put them there.

      If the children don’t belong in protective custody, you don’t put them there.

      If you threaten any suspect who has asked for an attorney, in an attempt to force them to confess without an attorney present, you’re the one who belongs in prison.

      If you think it’s OK to deny the civil rights of those you think might be ‘bad people’, then I can only say you’re the one who doesn’t deserve rights.

      • It sounds simple when you read this from a distance. It isn’t so simple once you enter the lives of people who are severely messed up. What constitutes, exactly, the need to place a child into protective custody? How much negligence constitutes too much? Even good parents take their kids to the ER for injuries and illness. Trying to keep my thoroughly energetic toddler safe is more difficult than any murder case I’ve ever had to deal with.

        • My understanding is that it’s literally the standard you’d apply for a pet. “If there’s water in the bowl, and food in the dish, it’s not neglect.”

      • She asked for an attorney and they didn’t deny her her right to that. They threatened to take her child away given the circumstances and that gave her the option to talk or not. She doesn’t have to answer, but the police can talk all they want without her attorney present. Now, if they got in her face, ripped the child from her arms, etc. that changes things. But the facts are scarce and the only source in the article is from the defense attorney.

        • Don’t they have to stop the interview as soon as she asks for the attorney?

          I’m actually ok with the threat, as long as the attorney is present when they make it.

        • They cannot ask *any* questions regarding charges or the case the second she asks for her attorney, unlesss she specifically waives that right.

          They can make statements like “Okay well be taking you to so and so” and can make threats (ex: “Okay you can spend the rest of your life in prison”) but continuing questioning is *supposed* to be a big no no. As is being questioned before having your miranda read to you. It used to be cases got thrown out for that stuff. Now its “What! No way…I read her rights and she totally waived her request for an attorney!” and since theyre police and youre guilty until proven innocent, youre basically fcked.

      • And whether a child belongs in protective custody, is up to his/her parents. Not some progressive government kid nappers. Just ask dad, then mom. Then leave.

  4. I think the threat is allowable if made in the presence of the attorney. Once the lawyer is requested questioning cannot legally continue. It’s a low blow for sure.

    • “Once the lawyer is requested questioning cannot legally continue…”

      If you’re in custody, correct (well, it can actually continue, but any statements and their implications are inadmissible). If you’re NOT in custody and are free to leave then the police can question you and if you want to stop talking and go get a lawyer you can walk away and do just that- therefore Miranda v. Arizona does not apply.

      But the crux of this case seems to be that there are other threats that can trip that wire in addition to custody, and that ruling makes sense to me.

  5. The tactic the Cop used was unethical. OTOH, if Sophia really wanted to protect her child she would not be living with drug dealers and murderers.

    • Assuming she knew the guy was currently a murderer and a drug dealer. Sometimes lower socioeconomic folk do not have the pick of the best mates.

  6. I work around lawyers every day. Law is complicated, and it really requires someone who specializes in it to understand it. The company I work for seldom signs any agreement or talks to anyone of authority without an army of lawyers overseeing it. These guys will spend days arguing over the wording of a single sentence in a contract. A simple twist of your words can mean a completely different thing when presented in court, even inflections in your statement will be questioned. If you are being questioned by police, get a lawyer. If police threaten you because you want a lawyer, it usually means that it will only get worse if you do not have a lawyer present. Police can lie to you during questioning. Heck, we (former USAF SP) lied all the time while questioning suspects. Threaten injury, absolutely not; lie through our teeth, yes, it was legal for us to lie. Even if the police support your cause, such as a DGU, it does not mean the prosecutors office or someone else will not pursue it. For me, if involved in a DGU, my response is that I was attacked, I feared for my life, and I want my lawyer. If some of the attackers got away, I may give a description of the attackers. If the police get aggressive, I may complain of chest pains so my lawyer can meet me at the hospital before the next round of questions. That’s it, nothing more. If I learned anything from my time enforcing law in the military is that many suspects are successfully convicted merely by what they said during questioning, and I am not talking about confessions. If you are guilty, and you want to cut a deal, again, have your lawyer review the agreement before you sign it. Always have a lawyer, period.

      • There’s a big difference between what is reasonably complex (obfuscated?) in a contract voluntarily entered into by both parties, than a law that is just arbitrarily applied to you without your consent. Criminal law is supposed to be simple. And to follow fairly universally agreed upon moral norms. Not the gaggle of power grabs and enablers of busybodies and career climbers, that it has degenerated into in the progressive era.

        What is included in Biblical and Koranic law is pretty short, straight forward and generally obvious. For a reason. And the reason is not just that God got lazy and left the job half done.

  7. local whistle-blower was arrested on a domestic violence charge when his wife, a Mexican national, imprudently called police during an argument. I recall being told that she had thrown water on him, or some other minor event. In any case, she refused to have a protective order taken out against him… until the police threatened to take her children unless she did so.

    He was immediately evicted from the house, his guns confiscated, and he was left to shift for himself in the 100 degree plus Yuma summer. Coordination on their case was difficult because the protective order did not allow them to communicate.

    So she assaulted him, but HE was the one thrown out of his house? WAT?

    • She is the one who called the police, she is female, so that tends to make him the guilty party in modern society. My memory could be better.

      I will not swear that this was the case in this instance, but for a while, any evidence of “violence”, as little as a spilled glass of water, was considered a requirement that someone at the residence had to be arrested, as a matter of prosecutor policy. Sometimes the police would give the couple the choice of which one would be arrested. It would usually be the man, especially if there were children involved.

      I do not recall the exact details, what I recall is that the local authorities used the call as a pretext to jack up the family. I recall being told that both man and wife were whistleblowers in the same case.

      Once the police were involved, the woman was pressured to keep things going. Being from Mexico probably led her to believe that the local authorites could do things and had power that they did not really have.

      Sorry that I can’t be more specific. It was several years back. I have had a number of other people confirm that the practice of threatening to take children from mothers, as a way to get what the threatener wants, is fairly common in the criminal justice system.

    • 99.99% of the time the male is getting the charge regardless of who called the police, if the female claims to have been assaulted.

      Thats why the laws where one party *has* to get arrested on domestic calls are ridiculous. Police cant decide who did what? Male is going to jail. Male calls 911, female claims he hit her, male is going to jail. Female calls 911 and says ANYTHING, male is going to jail. Male has scratches all over and a bloody nose, female claims she was defending herself, yup, male is going to jail.

      I tell ALL my friends if youre going to date and especially move in with a girlfriend, you better make sure she isnt the revenge type. A female can ruin your life financially and take your freedom over a complete fabrication, and it happens every day.

  8. Idaho has a track record of doing this kind of crap pretty regularly, I looked into it several years ago. My wife has a friend, who was 7 or 8 months pregnant and had a two-year old, who had something like this happen to her. There was a fire in her in-laws house while she was visiting and happened while she was sleeping. The in-laws didn’t like her (she was in a bad marriage all together), and called the police. They took her 2yo and said they were calling CPS, and she would never see her kid again if she didn’t admit to starting the fire. So being frantic, young, and inexperienced she said she did. So she was charged, but didn’t serve time due to her pregnancy, and instead had a very long parole (which further complicated the marriage she was in). Police have gotten complacent since the “bluff” (a.k.a. legally lie) became a protected option for them.

      • Correction: TAKING, as in kidnapping, children, should be off the table. The threats are just an inevitable side effect of allowing the taking itself.

  9. As I understand it (and I am a lawyer, altho in inactive status), it is not considered a “threat” (in the extortion/coercion sense of the word) to tell someone you might do something that you have a legal right to do. If the cop had a legal right to initiate child-removal proceedings and said he might do that, I don’t think that would count as a “threat”. If, however, he flatly stated the child would be taken away if she persisted in her demands for an attorney, etc, that would likely cross the line into improper coercion. That’s my thought, anyway, wouldn’t mind hearing from other legal minds on the subject. EDIT: It also occurs to me that once the demand for an attorney is made, questioning is supposed to cease at that point, no?

  10. The police and CPS are allowed to lie to you. They do not need to comply with Miranda while investigating child abuse. They can and do tell you that they will take your children right now if you don’t talk to them, sign paperwork, and/or agree to send the children someplace else.

    If you refuse to comply with their demands, they can take your children and then you can argue against that emergency removal to the court in about a week, maybe two, in rare cases longer.

    If you sign papers, then you must comply with whatever you agree to in the paper or that noncompliance will be used as sufficient evidence to remove the children from your care. If you refuse to talk to the CPS caseworker then that can be used as evidence to remove the children from your care.

    It’s a nasty system run by people who have miserable jobs with extremely high turnover. They suffer from abuse from politicians for every tragedy that slips through the system. They have a miserable job that I wouldn’t want to do.

    There are children who need, desperately, to get help from abusive parents. There is no good way to protect the children of such abuse without ensnaring others from time to time, but this free hand in coercing people leads to abuse of power.

    • There is no exception to the Miranda warning for child abuse investigations. If she “in custody” and they were questioning her, they must read her Miranda. If, under those circumstances, she asked for a lawyer, they must stop. The question in this case is was she in custody when they spoke to her on the scene. If she was then any confession is “fruit of the poisonous tree” and must be thrown out. If she wasn’t in custody then the case hinges on the threat to take her child. Did she feel she had to accompany the offices back to the station? Then, one could argue, she was in custody and not free to leave. Cops can lie to a suspect to elicit a confession but they cannot coerce a confession. This sounds like coercion. A lot hinges on details we dont have and we have to consider this is her defense attorney speaking. He may not be telling us everything.

      • Sure there is. In the scenario I was referring to, the parents aren’t suspected of a crime. They are only investigating the well being of the child. They can ask you anything in the world and do not have to inform you that you can remain silent or have the right to speak to an attorney. The difference is that they can use your silence as grounds to remove your child, even if they can’t use it to prosecute you.

        • Of course the police can ask you questions..regardless of the type of investigation…but they still must comply with Miranda in those situations where it applies. As I stated before if she was in custody, then Miranda applies and they must honor her request to speak to an attorney. If she was not then they don’t have to read her her rights. I’m not sure where you live but in Texas, Child Protective Services can only remove a child with evidence of neglect…silence in response to questioning is not grounds for removal. Also, in my state, the police do not remove children. That is the job of CPS and, at least in my area, they do a pretty poor job of it. As an LEO I have called them numerous times and if and outright crime hasn’t been committed they are very reluctant to take children from their parents despite some serious evidence of neglect.

    • “There are children who need, desperately, to get help from abusive parents”

      But there is noone, child or adult, that has gotten HELP from a bunch of progressive government lackeys. Ever.

      Some people’s lives suck more than others. All government has ever done, and will ever do, is increase the suckage even more.

  11. Some years back, in the mid-oughties, a friend son’s wife came home after picking her children up at daycare to find the cops searching her their home and garage, allegedly looking for drugs. “John” had been convicted of illegally possessing a misdemeanor amount of marijuana five years earlier and had been clean ever since but, according to the cops, an anonymous snitch claimed that he was dealing drugs. She asked if the police had a search warrant. Instead, they demanded she give them permission to conduct they search they were already or her children would be taken by Family Services. There was a DFS representative on site. Rather than have her children taken from her, she gave retroactive permission for them to search. Nothing was found, no charges filed, but it cost the family several thousands of dollars to repair the damage done by the police during that “lawful” (because they had permission, you know) search. And since it was “lawful,” the city denied any responsibility for the damages.

    • By far the easiest thing that can be done to “help children”, is to get rid of drug prohibition. From funding gangs to marginalizing parents, it’s nothing but a tragedy all around, for anyone besides the scum buckets making a career out of furthering it.

    • They should have taken their names. In a couple years they could “search” those officers homes too. See how they like it.

  12. A buddy’s wife called PD. He had a serious drinking problem at the time plus wife and small children. PD then asked if he could step outside on his porch to continue the conversion. He was then arrested for public intoxication. Happy ending. He’s been sober for over decade and is now a cop with the department that arrested him.

    I’ll leave it to the lawyers to decide if a public intoxication charge can be sustained on one’s property, but the arrest and a 3 mile barefoot walk home in chilly weather convinced him to get help.

    • Dude. What part of “more equal” do you not understand? “We” may just have to come take your kids away. And gun rights.

  13. Perhaps the proper response should be amended to the following:

    “I don’t answer questions without my attorney present.” Then immediately cover your ears and repeat over and over, “blah, blah, blah” so you can’t hear the cops questions/threats.

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