ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI
RANDOLPH, Justice, for the Court:
¶ 1. James Robert Delker was convicted in the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County, Mississippi, of felony driving under the influence ("DUI") and was sentenced, as a habitual offender, to serve the maximum term of five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC"). Delker appealed his conviction and sentence and the case was assigned to the Mississippi Court of Appeals for disposition. See Miss. R.App. P. 16(d). Delker contended that the circuit court had erred in denying his motion to suppress all evidence obtained from an allegedly illegal search and seizure. See Delker v. State, 50 So.3d 309, 312-14 (Miss.Ct. App.2009). The Court of Appeals affirmed Delker's conviction and sentence, concluding, in pertinent part, that "[e]ven if we were to find [the] ... arrest of Delker was unlawful, based on the United States Supreme Court's holding in Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135, 129 S.Ct. 695, 172 L.Ed.2d 496 (2009), we would still find that Delker's driving under the influence should not be suppressed." Delker, 50 So.3d at 319.
¶ 2. This Court granted Delker's petition for writ of certiorari. See Delker v. State, 31 So.3d 1217 (Miss.2010). We granted Delker's petition to determine if the Court of Appeals failed to consider a "controlling constitutional provision[,]" i.e., the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 3, Section 23, of the Mississippi Constitution, and address whether the circuit court erred in denying Delker's motion to suppress. Miss. R.App. P. 17(a); Miss. R.App. P. 17(h) ("[t]he Supreme Court may limit the question on review").
¶ 3. A Fourth Amendment violation does not automatically precipitate the exclusion of evidence. Rather, it sets into motion a separate inquiry, i.e., whether application of the exclusionary rule outweighs the costs to society in allowing the criminal to be set free. See Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 700 (quoting Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586, 591, 126 S.Ct. 2159, 165 L.Ed.2d 56 (2006)) ("exclusion `has always been our last resort, not our first impulse'"). Each case must be considered based upon the facts presented in that case. We find the exclusionary rule inapplicable in Delker's case and affirm the result reached by the circuit court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
¶ 4. In the late hours of Christmas Eve 2005, the Chief of Police of the Town of Marion, Mississippi, Ben Langston, was on
¶ 5. Langston commenced pursuit with the intention of giving the driver (later determined to be Delker) a warning. But the driver did not respond to the officer's blue lights. Instead, he sped up to approximately sixty to sixty-five miles per hour, overtook and passed a car stopped at a stop sign, then drove through the stop sign. Eventually, he stopped in the driveway of his home. While following the speeding vehicle, Langston radioed for assistance from the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department.
¶ 6. When Langston approached the stopped car, he observed that Delker had trouble getting out of his car, had difficulty standing, and had slurred speech. Langston also noticed the smell of alcohol emanating from Delker's car and saw an empty beer can on the front seat. Langston testified that when he asked why Delker had not stopped, Delker responded, "that he knew he was going to jail, and he didn't want to leave his car along side the roadway."
¶ 7. When Deputy Karey Williams of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department arrived, Delker was handcuffed. Williams offered to let Delker take a portable breathalyzer test, which Delker refused. Williams then transported Delker to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, where he administered field sobriety tests to Delker. According to Williams, Delker failed some aspects of these tests and refused to blow into the Intoxilyzer 8000 machine.
¶ 8. Delker subsequently was indicted for felony DUI,
¶ 9. The circuit court denied Delker's motion to suppress, concluding that Langston had acted as a private citizen and had possessed the authority to effectuate a citizen's arrest under the circumstances.
¶ 10. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's result, but for different reasons. See Delker, 50 So.3d at 316-17. That court determined that the circuit court had erred in finding that a private person could arrest another for the misdemeanor offense of speeding "because, under section 99-3-7(1), the only non-felony or non-indictable offense committed in the citizen's presence that gives rise to his authority to arrest the perpetrator is an offense constituting a breach of the peace threatened or attempted." Id. at 316. But the Court of Appeals further held that Langston's citizen's arrest was permissible because (1) it was not effectuated until after Langston had stopped Delker and observed his probable guilt of an indictable offense (felony DUI), and (2) Langston had authority to initiate pursuit as a private citizen since Delker had committed an indictable offense (felony DUI), although Langston lacked any knowledge of it. See id. at 316-19. Alternatively, the Court of Appeals held that even if Delker's arrest was illegal, the evidence obtained should not be suppressed under the exclusionary rule because Langston's mistake about the boundaries of his jurisdiction did not rise to the Herring standard of "deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct...." Id. at 319 (citing Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 702).
¶ 11. "In reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, we must determine whether the trial court's findings, considering the totality of the circumstances, are supported by substantial credible evidence." Moore v. State, 933 So.2d 910, 914 (Miss.2006). But this Court will also reverse the admission of the evidence if an incorrect legal standard was applied. See id. at 918. The standard of review for questions of law is de novo. See Hood v. State, 17 So.3d 548, 551 (Miss.2009).
¶ 12. This Court declines to delve into the legality, vel non, of the arrest. For purposes of deciding this case, we indulge Delker's contention "that there was a Fourth Amendment violation. The issue is whether the exclusionary rule should be applied." Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 699. Even in the event of a Fourth Amendment violation, the supreme law of the land requires a case-by-case "balancing test" to be performed, and suppression ordered "only in those unusual cases in which exclusion will further the purpose of the exclusionary rule." Kansas v. Ventris, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1841, 1845, 173 L.Ed.2d 801 (2009) (requiring "balancing test"); United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 918, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). Specifically:
Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 702 (emphasis added).
¶ 13. Without question, Langston mistakenly believed the road to be within the Town of Marion, indeed the record supports no other finding. A "mistake" is defined as "1. An error: fault. 2. A misconception:
¶ 14. An "innocent mistake" is "far removed from the core concerns that led [the United States Supreme Court] to adopt the [exclusionary] rule in the first place." Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 698, 702-03 (quoting Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171, 98 S.Ct. 2674, 57 L.Ed.2d 667 (1978)). Not a scintilla of evidence exists in this record that Langston's conduct was "deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent"
¶ 15. Moreover, while the dissent emphasizes the purported "flagrancy" of Langston's conduct, this Court notes that the "flagrancy of police misconduct" requires consideration of "the actions of all the police officers involved." Id. at 700 (quoting Leon, 468 U.S. at 911, 923 n. 24, 104 S.Ct. 3405) (emphasis added). Williams's response to Langston's radioed request for assistance from the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department while in pursuit of Delker was altogether reasonable. Williams had no reason to know of Langston's error. Accordingly, considering "the actions of all the police officers involved[,]" neither Langston's innocent error nor Williams's proper and reasonable response of assistance could be characterized as "so objectively culpable as to require exclusion." Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 703.
¶ 16. But for those who would opine that Langston's error was more than a mere mistake, exclusion still is not automatic. Exclusion is proper only after an unbiased weighing is conducted on the scales of justice. In one tray is the "appreciable" or "substantial" deterrence gained by exclusion and in the other tray are the "substantial social costs" and "harm to the justice system" resulting from exclusion. Id. at 700-01, 704 (quoting Leon, 468 U.S. at 909, 104 S.Ct. 3405; Illinois v. Krull, 480 U.S. 340, 352-53, 107 S.Ct. 1160, 94 L.Ed.2d 364 (1987)). In weighing these competing claims, "the rule's costly toll upon truth-seeking and law enforcement objectives presents a high obstacle for those urging [its] application." Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 701 (quoting Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole v. Scott, 524 U.S. 357, 364-65, 118 S.Ct. 2014, 141 L.Ed.2d 344 (1998)).
¶ 18. All can agree that where law-enforcement officers abuse our sacred Constitution and the laws of our land to effect convictions by "deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct, or ... recurring or systemic negligence[,]" application of the exclusionary rule is not only necessary, but also laudable.
¶ 19. Our ruling is not only consistent with recent United States Supreme Court rulings, but also finds support from such respected jurists as Judges Benjamin Cardozo and Henry J. Friendly. In considering the high price on the criminal justice system exacted by the exclusionary rule, Judge Cardozo questioned whether the criminal should "go free because the constable has blundered." People v. Defore, 242 N.Y. 13, 21, 150 N.E. 585, 587 (1926) (opinion of the Court by Cardozo, J.). Similarly, Judge Friendly argued that a mere "blunde[r]" or "slight and unintentional miscalculation" ought not compel application of the exclusionary rule, as deterrence could be "sufficiently accomplished" by confining its application to "evidence obtained by flagrant or deliberate violation of rights." Friendly, Henry J., The Bill of Rights as a Code of Criminal Procedure, 53 Calif. L.Rev. 929, 952-53 (1965). Such a well-reasoned, balanced approach should be no different in today's decision. Applying that approach, as the Court of Appeals did, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable here. See Delker, 50 So.3d at 319-20 ("we do not find that [Langston's] mistake concerning the location of the municipal limits of the [T]own of Marion rises to the standard of conduct articulated in Herring"). Today's opinion neither expands nor erodes the exclusionary rule, nor does it transform or expand traditional notions of the distinctions between negligence, gross negligence, and reckless disregard. As the circuit court reached the right result in denying Delker's motion to suppress, albeit for the wrong reason, this Court affirms the result of that ruling. See Green v. Cleary Water, Sewer & Fire Dist., 17 So.3d 559, 572 (Miss.2009) (citations omitted) ("[i]t is well established in our jurisprudence that the right result reached for the wrong reason will not be disturbed on appeal").
¶ 20. As the seized evidence was not subject to the exclusionary rule, this Court affirms the judgment of the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County.
CARLSON, P.J., DICKINSON, LAMAR, AND PIERCE, JJ., CONCUR. CHANDLER, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY WALLER, C.J., AND KITCHENS, J. GRAVES, P.J., NOT PARTICIPATING.
CHANDLER, Justice, Dissenting:
¶ 22. Because I believe today's decision erodes the exclusionary rule in Mississippi by holding that a police chief's ignorance of his municipality's boundaries was an innocent mistake, I respectfully dissent. Chief Langston's pursuit of Delker was plainly violative of the Fourth Amendment because, outside his jurisdiction, Chief Langston lacked any legal authority whatsoever to initiate pursuit of Delker for the misdemeanor offense of traveling ten miles per hour over the speed limit. Miss.Code Ann. § 99-3-7(a) (Rev.2007). In my view,
¶ 23. I begin with a brief discussion of Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135, 129 S.Ct. 695, 172 L.Ed.2d 496 (2009), in which the United States Supreme Court applied the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule in the context of negligent record-keeping by the police. In Herring, officers stopped Herring and arrested him based on a warrant issued in a neighboring county. Id. at 698. A search incident to the arrest yielded drugs and a gun. Id. However, it turned out that, unknown to the arresting officers, the warrant had been recalled, and the issuing department negligently had failed to update the database. Id. The Supreme Court found that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied, because "when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, any marginal deterrence does not `pay its way.'" Id. at 704. The court described the conduct at issue as "isolated negligence attenuated from the arrest." Id. at 698. The court held that:
Id. at 702 (emphasis added). Thus, for example, "[i]f the police have been shown to be reckless in maintaining a warrant system, or to have knowingly made false entries to lay the groundwork for future false arrests, exclusion would certainly be justified under our cases should such misconduct cause a Fourth Amendment violation." Id. at 703.
¶ 24. The court stated that it had "never suggested that the exclusionary rule must apply in every circumstance in which it might provide marginal deterrence." Id. at 700. Rather, the exclusion question "turns on the culpability of the police and the potential of exclusion to deter wrongful police conduct." Id. at 698. The court explained that, because the purpose of the rule is to deter police misconduct, an assessment of the flagrancy of police misconduct is necessary in each case. Id. at 701. "[E]vidence should be suppressed `only if it can be said that the law enforcement officer had knowledge, or may properly be charged with knowledge, that the search was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.'" Id. (quoting Illinois v. Krull, 480 U.S. 340, 352-353, 107 S.Ct. 1160, 94 L.Ed.2d 364 (1987)). Finally, the analysis of deterrence and culpability is an objective inquiry of "whether a reasonably well trained officer would have known that the search was illegal" in light of "all of the circumstances," which will' frequently include the officer's knowledge and experience. Id. at 703 (quoting United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922 n. 23, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984)).
¶ 25. In my opinion, the police misconduct at issue easily meets the standard for
¶ 26. I assert that a reasonably well-trained chief of police would have ascertained the jurisdictional boundaries of his town, and that Chief Langston's ignorance of the municipal boundaries under the facts of this case was at least gross negligence. This Court has defined "`gross negligence' [a]s that course of conduct which, under the particular circumstances, discloses a reckless indifference to consequences without the exertion of any substantial effort to avoid them." Dame v. Estes, 233 Miss. 315, 318 101 So.2d 644, 645 (1958). In my opinion, it is beyond peradventure that a police chief's ignorance of the fact that a highway lies outside his jurisdiction is at least gross negligence. As the police chief, Chief Langston was responsible not only for acquiring accurate knowledge of jurisdictional boundaries, but also for conveying that knowledge to subordinate officers. Miss.Code Ann. § 21-21-1 (Rev.2007). His ignorance of the boundary disclosed a reckless indifference to the consequences of that lack of knowledge; that is, a reckless indifference to the consequences of attempting to exercise authority outside his jurisdiction, including the violation of individuals' civil rights. And Chief Langston exerted no substantial effort to avoid these consequences by simply learning the true municipal boundaries. So considered, Chief Langston's error evinced reckless disregard for the constitutional rights of travelers on Old Country Club Road. This flagrant level of police culpability mandates exclusion. Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 701.
¶ 27. The flagrancy of Chief Langston's misconduct becomes even more obvious when contrasted with the negligent conduct that was at issue in Herring. In Herring, the police made a record-keeping error when, for whatever reason, a computer database was not updated. Id. at 698. This was a negligent failure to act attenuated from the arrest. Id. at 698. Here, Chief Langston's error was not attenuated from his illegal pursuit of Delker, because he was actively patrolling outside his jurisdiction at the time he initiated pursuit.
¶ 28. I would find that excluding the evidence procured from Chief Langston's illegal pursuit of Delker would have a meaningful deterrent effect by encouraging the basic competence of our law enforcement officers. The majority opines that, because this Court has not decided many cases involving errors in jurisdictional
¶ 29. The main purpose of the exclusionary rule "is to deter—to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way—by removing the incentive to disregard it." Elkins v. U.S., 364 U.S. 206, 217, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 1444, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960). I believe that Chief Langston's error was "sufficiently deliberate that exclusion can meaningfully deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice system." Herring, 129 S.Ct. at 702. In my opinion, it would be elementary in most instances for the police to acquire knowledge of jurisdictional boundaries, and requiring police to know the boundaries or face exclusion of evidence would have a meaningful deterrent effect.
¶ 30. Regarding the price paid by the justice system, I fully agree with the majority's condemnation of drunk drivers such as Delker. But, while keeping "a guilty and possibly dangerous defendant" imprisoned and away from the public is always a commendable endeavor, my primary concern, as it must be, is for the proper application of the law. By discounting the significance of Chief Langston's error, the majority encourages the State's law enforcement officers' ignorance of jurisdictional boundaries when initiating pursuit of misdemeanants—persons the officer observes to be merely traveling a few miles over the speed limit or committing other minor traffic violations. Most vitally, by casting Chief Langston's gross negligence as simple negligence, today's decision may greatly expand the practice of judicial forgiveness of police misconduct that violates individuals' Fourth Amendment rights. I believe it is the proper role of this Court to deter such police misconduct by excluding its fruits and safeguarding individuals' freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
¶ 31. In conclusion, I would reverse the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress.
WALLER, C.J., AND KITCHENS, J., JOIN THIS OPINION.