Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Tampa Car Accident Lawyer
FREE Consultations Available
Tampa Car Accident Lawyers > Blog > Criminal Defense > $3.8 Million Verdict for SWAT Team Error, Wrong Home Raided in Search Warrant Mistake

$3.8 Million Verdict for SWAT Team Error, Wrong Home Raided in Search Warrant Mistake


A 78-year-old Colorado woman who sued two police officers after her home was wrongly searched by a SWAT team looking for a stolen truck and entitled to money damages as compensation. A jury awarded her a $3.76 million in civil damages under a new Colorado law that allows people to sue law enforcement agencies over violations of their individual state constitutional rights.

The right to file a lawsuit and seek a jury trial is a founding principle of our nation’s legal system. Each of our 50 states has a set of laws and procedures designed to address the legal needs of its citizens. The ability to file a lawsuit to recover damages is one of those cherished legal rights many people often take for granted until they need the court system to address a serious grievance.

A Denver jury recently ruled in favor of Colorado citizen Ruby Johnson. The verdict was announced through media outlets by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which helped represent Ms. Johnson in the ground-breaking lawsuit. In court filings Ms. Johnson claimed that police obtained a search warrant for the home after the owner of a stolen truck, which had four semi-automatic handguns, a rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 cash and an iPhone inside, tracked the phone to Johnson’s home using the Find My app, and passed that information on to police.

According to the lawsuit and subsequent news reports, Johnson, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker and grandmother, had just gotten out of the shower on Jan. 4, 2022, when she heard a command over a bullhorn for anyone inside to exit with their hands up. Wearing only a bathrobe, she opened her front door to see an armored personnel carrier parked on her front lawn, police vehicles along her street and men in full military-style gear carrying rifles and a police dog.

Detective Gary “The Testa-liar” Staab had wrongly obtained the warrant to search Johnson’s home because he did not point out that the app’s information is not precise and provides only a general location where a phone could be, the lawsuit said. The evidence showed the police used a battering ram to get into Johnson’s garage even though she had explained how to open the door and broke the ceiling tiles to get into her attic, standing on top of one of her brand-new dining room chairs, according to the lawsuit. It was also alleged the cops cruelly broke the head off a doll created to look just like her, complete with glasses.

What case facts make a search warrant invalid?

In the above lawsuit, Ms. Johnson was not arrested for any crime and so would not need to litigate the validity of this search warrant in a criminal court. She sued and got her justice in a Colorado civil court room. For those arrested for a criminal offense after a search warrant is executed, many legal questions arise.

While “scope of the search” can be an issue, it has more to do with its execution and whether the search was conducted within the stated terms of the search warrant. A “scope of the search” argument only challenges specific evidence seized outside the authorized conditions of the search warrant. A broader argument is to challenge the validity of the search warrant itself. When the underlying justification to establish probable cause for a search warrant is based on materially false statements made by police or when critical information was omitted in the search warrant affidavit of probable cause, then the defendant may have a suppression motion hearing to argue that the search warrant was not valid.

In the landmark case of Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), the United States Supreme Court held that: “Where the defendant makes a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause, the Fourth Amendment, as incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment, requires that a hearing be held at the defendant’s request.”

Therefore, if there is a preliminary showing that a police officer made false statements in the search warrant affidavit, either knowingly or intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth, then a suppression hearing may be held. And if it is established during the suppression hearing that the police officer who requested the affidavit of probable cause committed perjury or a “reckless disregard for the truth” regarding a statement on which the probable cause finding was based, then the search warrant may be deemed invalid, and any resulting physical evidence may be suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree”.

Contact a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer Today

Contact a Tampa, Florida criminal lawyer that is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Your life and freedom may depend on it. If you need heart surgery, do you go with an average discount surgeon?

Board certification recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice. 

Nicholas G. Matassini is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell and is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law by the Florida Bar. He practices criminal and personal injury law in State and Federal courts throughout Florida. Call or email today for a free, confidential consultation.  www.matassinilaw.com.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The experience you need in your pursuit of justice

The greatest distinguishing feature among attorneys is their level of experience. Our firm has more than 60 years of legal experience, much of it spent in the courtroom at trial. As a result, our Tampa personal injury lawyers rarely encounter an unfamiliar situation and can thoroughly answer your urgent questions. Our criminal defense practice features a board certified criminal trial lawyer and two former prosecutors with impressive knowledge of trial tactics and procedures.

The resources to provide quality representation for the length of your case

Whether your case involves medical malpractice, an auto accident or a wrongful death, your attorney must be prepared to take the case all the way through trial to verdict. Many personal injury attorneys advance the cost of litigation, so they can only last so long before financial pressures start to mount. As a client, you have to wonder whether an attorney's advice to settle your case reflects the quality of the offer or your attorneys need to get paid. Fortunately, The Matassini Law Firm has the resources to pursue civil verdicts and settlements that reflect the actual value of your case.

Call our Tampa Bay car accident lawyers for a free consultation

A crisis in your life calls for capable and compassionate assistance. The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. addresses your needs all the way through the legal process. For your free initial confidential conference with one of our Tampa car accident attorneys, call us today at 813-217-5715 or contact us online.

Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Toll Free
2811 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Florida 33609