Warrantless Stops 101: Did a Seizure Occur?

Sorting out Fourth Amendment issues in the context of warrantless stops can be tricky. I like to break the case down into five basic questions:

  1. Did a seizure occur?
  2. If so and it was a stop, was it supported by reasonable suspicion or other valid basis?
  3. If reasonable suspicion supported the stop, was the officer’s subsequent conduct sufficiently limited in scope?
  4. If the seizure was an arrest, was it supported by probable cause?
  5. If the arrest was supported by probable cause, was the search permissible

This flowchart illustrates the analysis:

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