Becoming A Locksmith – Legal Issues

It comes as no surprise to most people that the business of picking locks and opening cars is rather heavily scrutinized by law enforcement and by Federal law as well, and such should be the case. It’s not that the skills required are hard to come by. In fact, it may be the very fact that such skills are so easily developed that necessitates a measure of control by these agencies.

To be totally frank, lock picking can be learned from any number of published sources, as it certainly isn’t rocket science and does not involve mysterious incantations or, for that matter, a lot of gray matter. There are many places on the Internet that offer advice on how to develop the skill, and there are tons of books on the subject.

Still, respect for the law and the controls that may be in place in your particular area is absolutely essential as you proceed in this endeavor. Please know that this writer does not condone, nor do I intend to encourage, any kind of unlawful use of either the skills or the tools required to perform those skills.

Legality Issues

The first thing you must determine is whether or not your state requires certification of locksmiths, and if so, what criteria is used in determining who qualifies as a “locksmith”. Many businesses in large cities legally offer auto lockout service, for example, without being “certified” or “registered” locksmiths”. Among them can be counted cab companies and tow truck operations. It is very likely that your city will allow you to work in this field without certification even if it requires locksmiths to undergo the process, particularly if you confine your business to the opening of vehicles (if you wish to offer lock picking, to service lockouts in homes and businesses, it could mean a more strict process of compliance in your area).

The fact is, most states do not require certification in order to do business as a locksmith. You must, of course, be duly licensed as a business most anywhere in the country, to be legal. Again, it is your responsibility to thoroughly investigate this facet of the business before you proceed. I cannot and do not offer legal advice in this matter or any other matter, as I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV.

What Is a Locksmith?

This question is not as silly as it sounds, and it has a great deal of bearing on how you proceed. If you want to go into business as a full-fledged locksmith, you will be doing much more than opening cars and unlocking houses. This is why I make the distinction between “lockout specialists” and “locksmiths”, and it’s a distinction that is made in many jurisdictions. Locksmiths are able to rekey locks (change the tumblers), fit keys to locks, originate keys for automobiles, perform lock repair, install various types of lock hardware and, in some cases, alarms and electronic locks, and there are those who specialize in safe work.

If you intend to confine yourself to servicing lockouts, make this fact very well known when you are inquiring about local licensing and other legal issues. Explain that your service will be confined to the unlocking of automobiles in emergency calls, and (if you choose to do so) the opening of locks in residential and office lockout situations. It may make a difference.

In general, you will be apt to find less stringent controls placed on auto lockout services than on a business that proposes to use lock picking tools, but again, this varies from place to place. Make assumptions and you are likely to pay a stiff consequence if you guess incorrectly. Fines and even imprisonment can be the reward for such impetuousness.

Securing a business license should be your first order of business, then be sure to look into certification or registration — whichever your jurisdiction requires. You may find that you will be required to secure a bond from an insurance company or some other source. Bonding protects the business, not the customer — contrary to popular belief. Still, if you can advertise that you are bonded you will find it enhances your image and will probably lead to more business.

Start by asking around, particularly if you are personally acquainted with a locksmith in your area who you think would be forthcoming. Most established Business Locksmith Las Vegas take pleasure in helping a beginner along, as he might well be investing time in a future employee. Ask what steps he or she took to set up business.

If this avenue is closed to you, simply open the telephone book or get online and find the number for your state offices. While titles differ from one locality to another, you should have no trouble locating a number for Business Regulation or something along those lines. This will prove to be a rich source of the very information you are after. If your questions are not answered at this first step, ask for numbers of other departments that may have the answers.

A little time spent on the phone (or online) may save horrendous headaches later on.

George Robertson, licensed certified Professional Locksmith since 1983.