Kerrville Texas, Kerr County Texas 2012 -
Texas locksmith, Elvis Hernandez, had been working as a locksmith for about 10 years before being deployed to the Middle East to serve a 4-year stint in the Iraq War. This U.S. Army combat veteran, who had been awarded the ultimate symbol of sacrifice - a Purple Heart and an Honorable Discharge, returned home to the challenge of rebuilding his business and serving his community.
Mr. Hernandez has the additional challenge of being a single father, but he also has the support of many others in the locksmithing community in the San Antonio area, recently being named to the Board of the San Antonio Locksmith Association and having a positive employment history with IDN Acme, a locksmith distributor.
Given his military service and the respect and praise given him by his friends, former employers, and co-workers; it is no surprise that Elvis Hernandez has a strong sense of civic duty. But it is equally a shame that his sense of compassion and concern for others has led to him being barred from practicing as a professional locksmith.
Late this last spring, on the way to a job, he saw a small dog wandering loose on a highway where speeding cars were passing. He stopped to rescue the dog, which had no collar, leash, or identification and at risk of becoming roadkill.
He asked his customer if they knew who the owner of the dog was. When the job was completed, he left his contact information with the customer who lived in the area in case the owner came looking for the dog. Mr. Hernandez cared for the dog briefly, but had to give the dog to a relative because the lost dog did not get along with a dog he already owned. That was not permanent either, but at least the dog was not left to roam along a highway in harms way.
Months later, Mr. Hernandez received a call from the customer, who had eventually heard from the alleged owner of the dog. At this point, Mr. Hernandez was no longer aware of the location of the stray dog he had rescued. Subsequently, he was contacted by the owners of a lost dog, then by the Kerr County Sheriff. The now-irate owner has decided to press property theft charges against Hernandez, who has since been arrested on the misdemeanor charge and had to be fingerprinted, have a mug shot taken, and spend over 24 hours in jail, before being released on bond, pending trial.
The whole story sounds ridiculous enough at this point – a negligent owner charging a good Samaritan with theft of their dog without any evidence that the rescued dog was, in fact, their lost dog; and the arrest and pending prosecution for property theft, months after the fact, of someone who left their contact information in the hope of reuniting the owner with their dog. Thieves don't do that!
But things have become much worse for Mr. Hernandez. Nothing less than a tragedy, he has been barred from practicing his chosen profession. Because he has been charged with a crime, his locksmith license has been summarily suspended by the State of Texas Department of Public Safety without a hearing. His business has been effectively shut down.
His friends in the locksmith community are barred from employing his skills as a locksmith. The damage being done to Mr. Hernandez's reputation is not the result of the actions of a negligent dog owner; it is not the result of what has every characteristic of overzealous law enforcement and malicious prosecution; it is purely and simply the result of the locksmith licensing law.
What would have been a bump in the road of his life has become a complete roadblock. Even if the charges are dropped or he is acquitted, it could easily take months for him to regain his license, under the locksmith licensing law.
As bad as the other circumstances have been, the effects of the locksmith licensing law has been devastating. He could run for Mayor, Governor, or even President of the United States, but he can't work as a locksmith simply because of the locksmith licensing law.
Those who have supported such laws should be ashamed at their results. Supposedly, these laws were enacted to put scammers out of business, but how many of them have been prosecuted under the locksmith licensing laws? As he served our country, Mr. Hernandez probably felt that he was supporting certain ideals, such as innocent until proven guilty. Little did he know that he would be presumed guilty until proven innocent by laws purporting to protect the industry he worked in.
Ironically, Mr. Hernandez said that he supported the initial efforts to license locksmiths in Texas, though he felt that the moneyed interests supporting licensing laws created a system far different than what the local locksmiths had envisioned.
This should serve as a warning to those who think there is any merit to government interference and regulation of the industry. It is reprehensible and inexcusable that a decorated war veteran should become a victim, collateral damage, in the supposed war against locksmith scammers.
The Society of Professional Locksmiths has been warning the locksmith industry
of the perils of the slippery slope. The days of warning are over.
The damage is done.
Tom Lynch, Founder & Director of the SOPL
Thank you Elvis for your service to our country
and for saving the stray dog!
Additional References -
Huffington Post - Elvis Hernandez Rescues Dog, Finds It New Home, Gets Arrested
KENS5 News San Antonio - Big trouble over little dog: S.A. man jailed over untagged Dachshund
T.F. Stern -Presumption of Guilt