Smart Start and DWI DIVERT Program - What a Scam

What a scam Smart Start has with the the DWI DIVERT Program.  As it turns out, one of the requirements of the DIVERT Program is that the person who enters into the contract with the Harris County District Attorney's office is required to go through Smart Start to have an ignition interlock device.

So why is it a scam?  Well, many of the Judges in Harris County require as a condition of bond to have an ignition interlock device put in a vehicle as a condition of bond.  There are a few companies that offer this service, including EZ Interlock that is run by a friend of ours, John Burns.  John has been around the courthouse since long before I started practicing law.

If a citizen decides to go through a company other than Smart Start for the ignition interlock as a condition of bond, he/she will be required to switch companies (cost to be paid by client) to Smart Start if they decide to participate in the DIVERT Program.  It seems to me that someone (hint: Smart Start) stands to make a lot of money on this new DIVERT Program.  What is the need for someone that has no problems with the ignition interlock device as a condition of bond to change companies?  why do they need to absorb the additional cost of changing companies?  Seems like a pretty good money maker for Smart Start to me.  Wonder who made this monopolized deal go through and if any money changed hands in that process?

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Mark Bennett - December 4, 2009 8:53 PM

I thought the requirement to use a photo interlock (offered only by Smart Start) smacked of corruption too. But who in Harris County is requiring an ignition interlock as a condition of bond on a first DWI?

Chick Richardson - December 5, 2009 10:31 AM

This is typical of Smart Start. Someone should check into who was paid off. Houston is not the only city in Texas where this is happening. The Attorney General should check this out

Mass. Ignition Interlock Lawyer - December 6, 2009 8:47 PM

It is unbelievable that any state agency would favor one ignition interlock vendor over another. In Massachusetts, drivers who are interlock-required are free to select the vendor of their choice. All approved vendors have devices which have been certified as in compliance with the NHTSA IID specifications. The driver is, therefore, free to select the device of his or her choice. It seems wrong and unfair that drivers are not given a choice in vendors. This should be changed as it just "smells bad" and suggests that there may have been some deal struck between Smart Start and the DIVERT program. In Massachusetts, the RMV is very careful not to suggest one IID vendor over the others. When someone asks, he or she is simply given a list of authorized interlock vendors. No customer is required to select a particular company and the Registry makes no recommendations. That's the way it should be.

Attorney Brian E. Simoneau,
Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Specialist

Dane Johnson - December 7, 2009 11:41 AM


Most (if not all) of the Harris County misdemeanor judges require an ingnition interlock as a condition of bond on a 1st DWI if there is a high breath test. Some of the judges are now requiring it as a condition of bond if there is an accident.


Neil Guerrier - February 24, 2010 9:34 PM

If any other company offered and IID with a camera that worked, perhaps offenders would have a choice, as it stands however....

Also, Dane, you lose any credibility by mentioning that you have a friend that works for a competitor.

The point is with the Divert program is that a device with a camera is required. Any other client is given a choice of what provider they wish to install with.

For years, judges and other court officials been screaming for positive id on the person blowing into the device. Smart Start beat other companies to the punch with their devices.

Also, if i remember correctly, there was an incident in Houston a few years ago where a Judge was part owner or investor in an Interlock company, was ordering clients to install with that company only...

Dane Johnson - February 26, 2010 10:22 AM


For full disclosure, you should announce that you are in mangagement at Smart Start. Thanks for you comment and please read my most recent blog. I'm sure you already know you now have a competitor in the DWI DIVERT Program for Interlocks.

Shelly Green - March 9, 2010 12:23 PM

Actually there is another company in the Houston area that has the camera devices which is National Interlock, so if you are not happy with Smart Start which it sounds like many people are not then you can go to them. I started out with the regular interlock until the county switched over to the camera interlock. Both ways, I have been happy with my service with National Interlock. They are very friendly, and once they opened more locations they set me up with a place closer to my house. They also work with you if you don't have enough money which is great and unheard of these days. Hopefully the two managers will stop arguing on the website and actually help people who are trying to change their lives. Thats an even more reason to go to National Interlock instead.

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