Maker of anti-DWI ignition locks settles with DMV

Posted March 21, 2012 10:58 a.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2012 11:55 a.m. EDT

— A Morrisville maker of electronic devices that thwart drunken drivers has settled its lawsuits against the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

Monitech Inc. has agreed to dismiss its state and federal lawsuits, which alleged DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson broke state bidding rules by withholding the renewal of its state contract. Under the settlement, Monitech will submit its device for state certification by April 16.

The company has been the state's sole provider since 1989 of the auto ignition interlocks, which test the breath of convicted drunken drivers for alcohol before they can start their vehicles. The devices are often mandated for people convicted of DWI to keep their driving privileges.

Two years ago, Texas-based Smart Start Inc. challenged the way DMV awarded the contract, alleging that the selection process required patents that gave Monitech an unfair advantage. Court documents also alleged that DMV employees might have accepted gratuities, which could have influenced their decision on the contract.

Robertson last year halted the bidding for the ignition locks because the independent lab responsible for testing the devices as part of the certification process for vendors didn't test all of the locks.  The agency then implemented new certification procedures.

Smart Start has already been certified to begin selling its ignition interlocks, starting April 1.

If Monitech's devices aren't approved under the new system, the company can continue to supply interlocks to its existing customers but cannot sell to any new customers.