WKYC-TV reports that when Norman Gurley was pulled over for allegedly speeding in Lorain County, Ohio on Tuesday, State Highway Patrol officers arrested him for having a hidden compartment on his car, charged with a felony despite the fact that he was not violating drug, weapon or any other contraband laws. Gurley thus became the first person charged under Ohio’s relatively new “hidden compartment” law intended, supposedly, to stop drug smuggling. The law states: “No person shall knowingly operate, possess, or use a vehicle with a hidden compartment with knowledge that the hidden compartment is used or intended to be used to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance.” That may create a problem if you drive a Dodge Dart in Ohio.
Specifically, Gurley was was charged with violation of Sec. 2923.241, which states:
To enact section 2923.241 of the Revised Code to prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle to create or add a hidden compartment with the intent to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance, prohibit operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment with knowledge that the hidden compartment is used or intended to be used to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance, and prohibit a person who has committed a first or second degree felony violation of aggravated trafficking in drugs from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment.
Troopers allege to have noticed an “overwhelming smell” of raw marijuana, a claim which gave them probable cause to search the car, which revealed not a trace of marijuana nor any other controlled substance. They did, however, find some electrical wiring and after tracing it they found it led to the release for a hidden compartment. “During the search, they noticed some components inside the vehicle that did not appear to be factory,” says Lt. Michael Combs with State Highway Patrol. “We figured it out and followed the wiring and we were able to get it open,” says Combs. The compartment, though, was empty.
“Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any charges on the suspect,” said Combs, who contends that the compartment was large enough to carry several pounds of drugs and made allegations that Gurley was part of some kind of drug gang. “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.
Gurley, who is from Michigan, was arraigned was released after posting bond. The car is being held as evidence.
Chrysler has started offering some of their cars, like the Dodge Dart, with a nice feature. The front passenger seat cushion flips forward to reveal a hidden storage compartment suitable for small valuables like cellphones, cameras, jewelry or a wallet. Just make sure, though, when you’re driving in Ohio, that neither you nor any of your passengers have ever thought of using it to stash some illegal drugs or maybe even some legal medical marijuana. It won’t necessarily take an “overpowering smell” of raw marijuana to find yourself charged with a felony and your car in an impound lot, maybe just enough for a well-trained K-9 to pick up its handler’s cues to “alert”.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS