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A Michigan distributor of in-car alcohol detection devices is suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and two other companies after the firm was barred from doing business in Michigan.

Waterford-based Michigan Interlock LLC owner Michele Compton filed the suit in federal court last week, attorney Chris Atallah said.  

“All we want at this point is for Michele to be appropriately compensated for the loss of her life’s work,” Atallah said.

Due to pending litigation, the Secretary of State's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

For more than 10 years, Waterford-based Michigan Interlock LLC distributed, installed and serviced alcohol detection interlock systems in vehicles driven by those with restricted licenses because of multiple drunk driving offenses or a “super drunk” conviction.

If the devices gauge the driver has a blood alcohol content higher than 0.025, the vehicle won’t start.

Michigan Interlock LLC had an exclusive contract with Baltimore-based manufacturer Alcohol Detection Systems to distribute its devices to the Michigan market. 

In 2016, when Michigan law changed to require cameras on the devices, companies were given no warning or grace period for the change, Atallah said, leaving ADS scrambling for money to make the new devices. Michigan Interlock borrowed $1.2 million to purchase the new products, giving ADS the capital it needed to pay for production.

But the devices ADS produced were flawed, so much so that in March the Secretary of State’s office suspended the device. A press release from the state said ADS failed to perform the necessary testing on the product and failed to report when drivers were able to start driving without a breath sample.

The release advised the roughly 1,500 people with an ADS device to contact Michigan Interlock for a free removal.

The state's press release took Michigan Interlock by surprise, Atallah said. The company said it had no knowledge the devices were faulty and was not notified of such by the Secretary of State.

Michigan Interlock also claimed it was not notified of a meeting a few weeks after the suspension in which ADS, which had been recently acquired by Directed Electronics, and the Secretary of State office met and discussed ways to lift the suspension on the company.

“They privately came to an agreement outside of any public forum whereby ADS would be able to continue conducting business,” Atallah said.

“He said Michigan Interlock was removed from the list the next day and replaced with ADS.

ADS and Directed worked to push Michigan Interlock out of businesses, “and for all intents and purposes conduct a hostile takeover,” Atallah said.

The change in statute that required cameras be installed with the device was unconstitutional as “it didn’t allow (Compton) notice and opportunity to be heard before and after the change was approved,” Atallah said. The same due process rights were violated before and after the suspension and before and after the state’s meeting with ADS.

The lawsuit also faults ADS for violating its exclusive contract with Michigan Interlock, Atallah said.

“They’ve driven her out of business,” Atallah said. “She’s not allowed to conduct business in the state of Michigan anymore.”

Directed would not comment on specific accusations. But “we are fully in compliance with good-standing with the state of Michigan and our customers can trust we will continue to remain so,” spokesman Chris Pearson said in an email.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com       

(517) 371-3661

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