Norman Gurley, 30, is facing
drug-related charges in Lorian County, Ohio, despite the fact that
state troopers did not actually find any drugs in his
a law in 2012 making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a
secret compartment with the “intent” of using it to conceal drugs
Gurley is the first actual person arrested under the law. WKYC
in Northeast Ohio covered the arrest, with no notable journalistic
They pulled over the driver for speeding, but then troopers
noticed several wires running to the back of the car.
Those wires then led them directly to a hidden compartment.
Around 5 p.m. on Tuesday state troopers made the arrest under
the law, which is meant to combat criminals who modify the inside
of their car, allowing them to store drugs or weapons inside secret
compartments, which can often only be accessed electronically.
They just noticed some wires, did they? Just while in the
process of handing Gurley a speeding ticket, they noticed the
They did not, however, find any drugs, which means they’re
arresting Gurley for the crime of an empty space:
Troopers arrested 30-year-old Norman Gurley, who didn’t even
have any drugs on him, but it didn’t matter, because in Ohio, just
driving a “trap” car is now a felony.
“Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any
charges on the suspect,” says Combs.
But because of this law, one more “trap car” is now off
Northeast Ohio roads.
“We apparently caught them between runs, so to speak, so this
takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade. The law does
help us and is on our side,” says Combs.
Combs’ claim is not challenged by the news station at all.
The law says it’s only a crime if the hidden compartment is
added with the “intent” to conceal drugs, but it also outlaws
anybody who has been convicted of felony aggravated drug
trafficking laws from operating any vehicle with hidden
compartments. The ACLU of Ohio warned
against the new legislation:
The ACLU of Ohio believes SB 305 is an unnecessary and
unproductive expansion of law. Drug trafficking is already
prohibited under Ohio law, so there is no use for shifting the
focus to the container. Further by focusing on the container
itself, this bill criminalizes a person with prior felony drug
trafficking convictions simply for driving a car with a hidden
compartment, regardless of whether or not drugs or even drug
residue are present.
Given this is the first arrest, you have to wonder how the
courts might view a law making it a felony to alter a person’s own
property for reasons that have nothing to do with actual public
safety. Maybe we’ll see.
As for the car itself, the Institute for Justice’s 2010
“Policing for Profit” report
calculated that law enforcement officials in the state have
collected more than $80 million in shared proceeds from asset
forfeiture funds. Oh, and the hidden compartment law exempts
vehicles being operated by law enforcement officers, so if state
troopers can come up with an excuse to use the ride they just
grabbed, they may be able to keep it for themselves.
(Hat tip to Reason commenter Warty)
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/21/driver-arrested-in-ohio-for-secret-car-c