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:
- Did a seizure occur?
- If so and it was a stop, was it supported by reasonable suspicion or other valid basis?
- If reasonable suspicion supported the stop, was the officer’s subsequent conduct sufficiently limited in scope?
- If the seizure was an arrest, was it supported by probable cause?
- If the arrest was supported by probable cause, was the search permissible
This flowchart illustrates the analysis: