Forensic Locksmithing-The Big Lie!

Posted by Rob


Stolen Vehicle Claim Denied? The Forensic Locksmith Key of the Proper Type the BIG Lie!



Blatant ignorance fuels the Forensic locksmithing profession by design. The less you know and the more assumptions you use thinking the Forensic Locksmith knows about car theft, the more disadvantaged you are at falling for this scam that has permeated throughout our court system for years with lies and half-truths.

Key of the proper type being last used is a catchall that no forensic science is required to solve. The unknowing believe because the Certified Forensic Locksmith makes this claim, the last key used was the insured’s in the reported stolen vehicle. This conclusion means they have no clue and they know the jury and the opposing attorney will assume these three little words mean the expert through experience training and background had determined the insured’s key was last used it the ignition.

What is the error rate in using the conclusion key of the proper type? 0 or 100% if the ignition lock cylinder is not damaged, key of the proper type fits. Was it the insured’s key? Maybe. Was it a thief’s key? Maybe. Was it a newly cut key? Maybe. The conclusion fits all scenarios, but what it does not do is specify the exact key last used. To infer the key(s) tested were the last key used to drive the reported stolen, and insinuating the insured’s key was last used to link them to the theft is junk science!

The only way with 100% certainty one can state the last key used, is that it has to be found in the ignition lock at the time of the exam!

OK, what about tool mark determination? Marks caused from picking, newly cut keys. These marks are subjective. There is assumption portrayed as fact that the use of a newly cut key will leave marks in the ignition lock. The assumption is that rough edges will be a newly cut key. If the locksmith or thief does not want binding, they are going to smooth out those rough edges.



Is a Certified Forensic Locksmith Really Qualified Under Federal Rules of Daubert When it Comes to Rendering a Conclusion About the Last Key Used In the Ignition?


For close to 20 years the Certified Forensic Locksmith (CFL) has been qualified to render an ambiguous general conclusion that the reported stolen vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. To the courts, this conclusion commonly went without question with the assumption that key of the proper type was the insured’s. Over the years, thousands of these claims report conclusions by the CFL went undisputed when a plaintiff attorney or criminal defense attorney did not have an expert to refute these outlandish conclusions!

The first problem:

  • It is assumed that the expert with the CFL title used a standardized examination protocol of the ignition or vehicle to arrive to this so called “Scientific” conclusion that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. In reality, this conclusion is a one size fits all generic conclusion, which means there was no internal damage to the ignition lock cylinder. This conclusion does not require someone with any technical training to reach. This only means the examiner had stuck a key in the ignition lock and rotated it to the ON position. Something that just about anyone over the age of 10 knows how to do that ever rode in a vehicle, watching the driver perform to start the engine! Or, if the CFL didn’t have keys for the ignition lock at the time of the exam, would peer into the keyway with a lighted and magnified scope and observe no damage to the inside of the ignition lock cylinder. This too, does not require great technical expertise and anyone trained what to look for in about 10 minutes would know how to discern damaged from non-damaged! Yet, because the CFL advertises that he is a forensic scientist, he can testify that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type!
  • The problem is that these experts meet the Daubert standard because of ignorance> No, I am not calling judges stupid. I am just saying that they can’t be knowledgeable on every subject and there is simply no enough time for the court to realize that they are being played.

In a Vior Dire, the expert is questioned on how long he has been a locksmith. Since he has been a locksmith for over a decade or longer, he is qualified by the court as a very experienced locksmith. When questioned about his training and experience as a certified forensic locksmith, he will revert to stating he had taken investigation locksmith course and that he took a test to become a certified forensic locksmith. The problem with this is that this does not give the CFL the experience needed in auto theft, yet the judge will qualify him on being able to tell the difference from a legitimate theft and an owner give up. All by examining the ignition!


Examination Standards

  • There are some throughout the country that use very questionable examination techniques, and there are those that use a pre-prepared report in which all they need to do is change the personal information and the type of vehicle and their report with its pre-determined conclusion is ready to go in minutes!

The questionable, common sense can be applied. One would think standards are applied in every examination. If you are removing the ignition on one vehicle, disassembling it to perform a microscopic examination internal components, it would be assumed that the next vehicle and the next vehicle are handled the same way. If one vehicle is subject to an electronic interrogation of the vehicle’s computer system to determine how many transponder keys are programmed for the vehicle, it would be assumed that each examination requires this.

If the key depths are determined, then one would think that all vehicles are subject to the key examination.

Here is the issue—In forensics, it is required that all true science to be applied is that the exam be performed so that it can be replicated by any other forensic examiner in the field of auto theft and forensics. Currently, because there is no scientific methodology employed on each vehicle, the process used by the CFL is not scientific. This is why they use the generic conclusion of key of the proper type. If this was truly scientific as in once was, a specific key being last used in the ignition would be stated. Was it determined if the vehicle was driven last with the first key, the insured’s second key, a thief’s key? These forensic examiners clearly don’t know and key of the proper type fits in every claim in which the ignition lock was not damaged internally.

If the ignition lock is damaged, it is easy to say that the vehicle was not successfully compromised. Now think about it, a professional thief is experienced, but without catching him, the unfounded motives cannot be stated as fact as they currently are. Motives like a thief would not burn a vehicle, because the valuable parts are not removed and that would be like burning money to a thief! The very first thought that comes to me on this story, is what if something went wrong in the thief’s plans? Burn the vehicle to conceal DNA and finger prints is a good real life answer to that!

The vehicle may have been parked in a gang infested area to cool off because the thief suspected the vehicle had a tracking system like Lojack installed. This is commonly done and the thief waits 24 hours or so to pick up the car since cops didn’t find it. It is very common for gang initiation to set cars on fire. Instead, assumed fact is used to say the insureds was responsible for the burn in order to total the vehicle and get an insurance check to pay for the vehicle.

Then we need to consider what fire background does the forensic locksmith have. The ignition lock components are commonly transformed and is in no condition for a forensic locksmith to render a conclusion on the last key used unless he reverts to stating the last key used was a key of the proper type. While this statement may be true, it does not specify the exact key last used. It is assumed as a fact, that the last key used was the insured’s, yet it is not proven scientifically if the last key used was the insured’s first key, second key, or a thief’s key! Key of the proper type is not a scientific conclusion. It is merely a general statement used to accuse the insured of being the last person to drive the vehicle. In essence, what we have here is people titling themselves as “Forensic” that apply no replicatable scientific methods to reach these conclusions! Because the courts are ignorant on these matters including the attorneys, these guys have gotten away with their unfounded conclusions due to this ignorance! I am very successful in refuting the misrepresentation by these forensic locksmiths nationwide.

I show that these forensic locksmiths should be questioned with a high degree of scrutiny because most times they supply a generic conclusion that required no scientific methodology. The CFL holds himself above other, yet a regular locksmith could make the conclusion that a reported stolen vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. How can that be? The ignition lock is not broken, tampered with and the key rotates the ignition lock.

We will put this in an analogy that even attorneys can understand. The expert is an active locksmith as well as making determinations on reported stolen vehicles for the insurance companies. The CFL is dispatched to a lock out. The owner has lost their keys. The CFL arrives at the vehicle and has opened the locked car in less than a minute, doing no damage to the door lock, the weather stripping around the door or he will be sued for doing such damage. Yet as a CFL when examining a reported stolen, he concludes there is no signs of forced entry, causing question to the insured’s statement the vehicle was stolen. The CFL generates a new ignition key and depending on the vehicle and the programmer used, the CFL can generate a new transponder key in 12 minutes and a Ford in 10 minutes, just as an example. The new key is tried and it starts the engine. What is the name of the key the locksmith just made? It would be known as the key of the PROPER TYPE!

Is that the owner’s key? No, that key was lost! There is also assumptive reasoning when it comes to tool marks on new keys and what they do to the ignition lock. It is said that the recent use of a newly cut key can be ruled out because it would leave marks in the tumblers (wafers that don’t tumble in most automotive locks). This conclusion is not scientist but speculative. A good locksmith will remove all the burrs from a new key (Known as Buffing) before inserting the key into the ignition, so such marks from the use of a newly cut key may even be there!


Last Key Used

This again is all hyped and the truth of the matter is last key used unless using the generic statement that the ignition was last rotated with a key of the proper type is employed. Last key used is expected from these CFLs to be exacting like the first, second or thief’s key. Since the exact specific last key used can almost never can be determined, and since key of the proper type is not scientific, then why do CFLs get away insinuating the last key used was the insured’s? The highly questionable “Forensic” title that they use. In the court system, it is assumed that all forensics requires college degreed people or at least that they have used scientific methods to reach their conclusions based on a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. Even though the CFL states such in their report, where is the scientific certainty in offering a generic conclusion that can fit any circumstance no matter the methodology employed?


Some of these Expert Forensic Locksmiths get even more ludicrous

There is the phenomena of determining the last key used without physical evidence. How can that be a valid scientific conclusion? That accentuates to point as to how bogus key of the proper type is.

A vehicle is reported stolen. It remains unrecovered. The expert never turns down an assignment. He will take the case! His report addresses the type of anti-theft system as to the description and operation theory as taken directly out of the factory service manual. The purpose is to make it appear as to how difficult the vehicle would be to steal. In order to address this, they will describe the expense of key programming equipment as they do in other reports, as if this is required to steal one specific vehicle. What they don’t address is that if a relatively cheap aftermarket programmer is purchased assuming the thief didn’t steal it, in the case of GM, will be able to make keys for all GM vehicles depending on the software. The same holds true for Ford, Chrysler etc. There are programmers that can program keys for multiple makes and models!

In court, the CFL may state it would cost $6,000 to make a key for a specific vehicle, but this is a highly over inflated price and it is already addressed as to how economical it is for a thief with an aftermarket programmer. There is a Chinse version of a programmer that can make transponder keys for Fords, Hondas and many other vehicles available to anyone on the Internet for $125.00!

My machine I bought for BMWs and some Mercedes cost me $350.00 in 2012! I could make my own Smart key for a BMW! Since, the product has gotten even more versatile and easy to use.

The forensic locksmith will go on about the security of the ignition lock in the unrecovered reported stolen vehicle. As to the conclusion on an unrecovered reported stolen vehicle, it just happens to be that it was last driven with a key of the proper type! All this without examining the vehicle for forced entry! The ignition lock cannot be examined by the expert and in some cases, the keys were lost in the mail and could not be examined. The vehicle’s computer cannot be interrogated and the vehicle could not be examined, but the expert knows the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type! These denied claims actually go to court!

Here is a very germane question then: If the forensic locksmith expert has the ability to determine as to how an unrecovered stolen vehicle was last driven, then why bother performing physical examinations on locks and keys? Why bother if the predetermined canned answer of the key of the proper type being last used?

Is it only for the purpose of having some reports filled with photos for occasional credibility?

The forensic locksmith knows that the jury will take his testimony like gold, because after all, his title is “Forensic.”

More Nonsense From Different CFLs

Since the courts hold these experts in such high regard, it is assumed that proven scientific methods are employed. Let’s take the recent criminal case on the East coast.

The CFL, describes the key cuts and match them to the factory specifications for the vehicle. He examines the keys, noting that one is missing. He states in the report he has one primary, and one valet key, meaning the second primary key is unaccounted for. He states that the vehicle can have up to 5 keys programmed for it. He goes to extensive length to examine the keys at 10 and 30x magnifications for tool marks consistent with key duplication efforts. The conclusion to his report is that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. OK, but here is a major problem and illustrates the fraud that key of the proper type is: The premise for the CFL is to examine the keys and compare to the ignition lock cylinder for identifiable tool marks. After all, the key mates with the ignition lock for the vehicle. No one can question that. Yet, when the other half of this examination duo went to the vehicle, here is your super forensic examination of the ignition lock. He inserted the key into the ignition lock and rotated it. He never removed the ignition lock to perform a microscopic examination on it. The transponder system could no be interrogated due to fire damage. The factory security system could not be checked! Yet, this half shod forensic examination was used in a criminal case to accuse the insured of fraud!

© Copyright 2017 Rob Painter. All Rights Reserved.