Another Dumb Car Thief vs. Ignition Interlock

Anyone who has an ignition interlock installed in his or her vehicle will tell you: they’re easy to use. It takes just a few minutes of practice to know how to deliver the right type of breath sample.

Unfortunately, if you’re a car thief, a few minutes is too long.

In Donna, Texas, a man broke into a car with the intention of shifting the vehicle’s ownership to himself. He encountered an ignition interlock in the vehicle and tried to blow into it to fire up the ignition. Unfortunately, whatever criminal past the man has, drunk driving is probably not part of it: he didn’t know how to use the device.

Interlock devices require breath in order to test if you’ve been drinking, but they also need one to hum or sometimes inhale, to prove that a human being, and not a balloon or hair dryer, is providing the stream of air. The technology works fine. When you have your interlock installed, the technician will instruct you in how long to breathe and when to hum or inhale. Usually, after a few minutes of practice, you’re good to go.

This thief had two things working against him:

  1. He didn’t know how to breathe into the interlock, and even worse:
  2. He didn’t know that the device has a camera

In order to prevent fraud, Texas ignition interlocks usually have cameras installed. A video of the driver is taken during the test, so monitoring authorities can confirm that it was indeed the offender who gave the breath sample.

So not only does this would-be car thief not get the car, he’s left a video of the attempted heist, with his face and some fairly identifiable tattoos for the police to follow up.

Rest assured that if you are convicted of drunk driving and required to use an ignition device in Texas or elsewhere, this problem will not befall you. Interlock users and their families (if they use the same vehicle) are trained in the operation of the device, and they can start a car in a few seconds and be off.

However, if a thief tries to steal your car, there’s a good chance they won’t get far. Not a standard selling point used by interlock providers, but worth mentioning.

Oh, and if you know this guy, please call the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. His cell is waiting.

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Lindsay Lohan

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Lindsay Lohan sits in court before receiving her new accessory.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | 12:42 p.m.

The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor—aka SCRAM—is an unfortunate accessory, a bulky, black plastic device worn around the ankle like a chainless shackle. Last week, Lindsay Lohan was ordered to wear the SCRAM anklet, which automatically samples your sweat for alcohol every 30 minutes.

Electronic Bracelet Inspired by Spiderman.

The development of the “electronic bracelet” was inspired by a Spiderman comic strip in 1977 read by Judge Jack Love, a New Mexico district court judge Spiderman was being tracked by a transmitter worn on his wrist (Gable. 1986). The judge persuaded Michael Goss, a computer salesman, to develop a similar device. In 1983, the first of these new electronic monitors was developed by Goss for monitoring five offenders in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Gable, 1986). The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) evaluated the effort and concluded that the equipment operated successfully, and that it was legally tenable and cost-effective as an alternative to incarceration (Ford and Schmidt, 1985).