Storeowners often employ security personnel to protect them from shoplifters, and a store detective has the right to detain you if he or she suspects you of shoplifting. In order to protect themselves from accusations or liability lawsuits based on wrongful detention or false arrest, store security personnel generally follow certain established routines when investigating a suspected case of shoplifting. These routines include observation of the suspect, often using surveillance equipment, actually witnessing the item being taken and concealed, and establishing that no attempt was made to pay for the item. Store security personnel should generally wait until a suspect has actually left the store without paying for an item before stopping and detaining the culprit. Store personnel are not allowed to conduct searches of the suspect's person or belongings and are obliged to behave politely and professionally. If store security personnel have reasonable cause to suspect that a shoplifting offense has been committed, they should summon the police. Shoplifting as a first-time offense is generally charged as petty theft, which is a misdemeanor usually punishable by fine and probation. A repeat offense, or a first-time offense in which the dollar value of the stolen item warrants, may be charged as a felony, resulting in imprisonment. If you're accused of shoplifting, you should consider consulting an attorney.