Local News

Firm seeks to block DMV from closing vendor certification

Posted February 24, 2010 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2010 5:48 p.m. EST

— A  Superior Court judge on Thursday issued a restraining order against the state Division of Motor Vehicles regarding its certification of ignition-interlock system vendors.

Texas-based Smart Start Inc. filed suit last month in the Office of Administrative Hearing, alleging that the DMV has unfairly blocked its attempts to sell the devices.

Smart Start asked the judge to prevent the DMV from completing its assessment of various ignition-lock providers until the company’s suit is heard.

An ignition-interlock system prevents a driver from starting a car until a breath analyzer has cleared the driver as being sober enough to get behind the wheel. North Carolina courts began using the devices in 1989 in drunken-driving cases, and since then, the only firm the DMV has certified to sell the devices in the state is Morrisville-based Monitech Inc.

Smart Start, a Monitech competitor, contends in its lawsuit that it has been rejected each time it has tried to enter the North Carolina market.

The lawsuit alleges that the DMV selection process requires patents that give Monitech an unfair advantage to win the state business. Court documents also allege that agency employees might have accepted gratuities, which could have influenced their decision on the contract.

By some estimates, the North Carolina market for the ignition-interlock systems is worth $10 million a year.