By on December 19, 2013

2013-Dodge-Dart-Limited-seat-compartment

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

 

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126 Comments on “Are Dodge Darts Illegal in Ohio? Man Arrested For Hidden Compartment That Revealed No Drugs...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    I see the whole problem here – the arrest happened in Ohio, and the perp was from Michigan! Case closed. He should have known better. I guess the cop was a Buckeye fan…

    As far as hidden compartments go, I’m guilty as well, as my 2012 Impala LTZ has flip-and-fold back seats that reveal a shallow storage compartment. Good for stowing an umbrella as well as lots of other stuff one may want to “hide”.

    • 0 avatar
      allenped

      i have a 2012 impala ltz, i love that back seat! i was upset when i found the new impala only the seat backs fold down. makes me happy that production will go on to 2016. i know what car i am getting cheap in 2016 again

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    so what was the wiring, is that soemthing he isntalled himself? i read thsi text over, but the part describing whether he altere the car or not was missing.

    If it is all in factory shape, he should be free. If he altered the compartment, he violated the law. The law also includes a phrase that one must have intended to smuggle drugs to be a violator. No drugs, no violation.

    Since most wiring in Chrysler vehicles look like someone installed it himself whne drunk, I can’t blame the cops for thinking he altered it :)

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      The arrest in the news story has nothing to do with the Dodge Dart. Misleading TTAC article.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I was looking for the connection too. This is very poor.

      • 0 avatar
        bkmurph

        +1. I was wondering about that, too.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Read the full statute:

        “To enact section 2923.241 of the Revised Code to . . . 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.”

        All someone has to do is have trumped up “intent”, and operating, possessing, or using a Dodge Dart is illegal.

        Or if they have a previous conviction owning a Dodge Dart is illegal.

        We need to keep passing more and more laws or some cops might get laid off and have to work in the private sector. Which means less pay and having to do their job well or get fired. A huge shock to the system of a typical union government employee like Lt. Michael Combs.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Look even closer at the statute itself, not the writeup:

          http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241

          (2) “Hidden compartment” means a container, space, or enclosure that conceals, hides, or otherwise prevents the discovery of the contents of the container, space, or enclosure. “Hidden compartment” includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

          (a) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks;

          (b) Any original factory equipment on a vehicle that has been modified to conceal, hide, or prevent the discovery of the modified equipment’s contents;

          (c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle.

          Without *modifying* the OEM compartment, no factory one even qualifies as a “hidden compartment” for this law’s purposes.

          A “hidden compartment” for these purposes is one that is either undetectable in normal search (modified fuel tank, etc.) – which no OEM compartment is – or one that is modified to *look empty when it isn’t*.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        Agree. Click-baiting is not classy.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Note that the law *also* bans *possessing* a car with even a factory “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”.

      Modifying a car to have one, with the same “intent” language, is a SEPARATE issue.

      That knowledge will be very hard to prove in court, of course, but it is a vital part of the charge and will be required for a conviction.

      (This is a deeply stupid law, solving a non-problem in a way that lets police pester innocent people … but we should attack it honestly on the text of the law, not on synopses or misreadings or skimmings.)

      UPDATE: on a closer reading of the actual statute, I don’t think the OEM “hidden compartment” would qualify even WITH intent; See ORC 2923.241(A)(2)(b), which defines “hidden compartment” in a way that would exclude all or virtually all OEM “compartments”.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sounds like a nice repeal candidate. Do the Ohio State Troopers not have enough statutes to choose from when charging suspected drug runners?

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Ohio used to have a quirky law that said conceal firearm permit owners had to have their piece exposed while operating a motor vehicle. So could you cruise the street on your V-Rod with a Colt 45 hanging from your belt sticking of your leather vest? Not sure if they updated or not.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    The Nissan Note rental car that my brother & I had in Europe this spring had one of these rogue hidden compartments. It was perfect for stashing our rental GPS.

    Authorities in OH must have been watching an episode of Weeds…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I suspect, also, that any lawyer would suggest that a compartment that was merely “not obvious” is not “hidden” if it’s built in from the factory, is shown in the owner’s manual, and should be known to anyone who operates the car for that very reason.

      A storage compartment under a seat probably wouldn’t even count as a “hidden compartment” for these purposes any more than a console storage box would; my Corolla doesn’t have a “hidden compartment” in the console just because there isn’t a sticker on it saying “THIS IS HOLLOW AND THE LID PULLS UP”…

      UPDATE: I looked at the actual statue, not the writeup summary, and indeed *NO OEM COMPARTMENT* on any car I’ve ever heard of would be covered by this statute’s definition of “hidden compartment”.

      http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241

      See ORC 2923.241(A)(2)(b).

  • avatar
    dts187

    I read a large article on these hidden traps and a guy in California who made them. He eventually got arrested and more jail time than the folks actually running the drugs. Some of the traps are unbelievably well conceived and require hitting factory buttons (stereo/climate controls/etc) in a certain sequence to open the trap. One of the smarter traps they described was voice operated (enabled by holding in a button the stereo) and would only work if all doors and windows were closed.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      They only got him because he witnessed the compartment being used for illegal purposes. He also refused to let the dea wire his shop as a long term sting operation.

      He made both decisions out of fear for his safety by his account. Conspire with dea against Mexican Mafia and die certainly or continue working with the Mafia hoping dea didn’t find out about the one time he saw something.

      I think the piles of cash he was charging probably had something to do with it to.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    “Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any charges on the suspect.”

    Thank goodness! Without making up new laws, how are we supposed to find criminals?

    It should be pointed out that they likely saw the wires while searching the truck, meaning they tore all the interior panels out of the truck. When your vehicle is searched for suspected drugs, they will destroy it. And if you have no drugs in it, have a good time on the side of the road with your car in pieces as they drive away (if they can’t figure out something else to charge you with).

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      “Thank goodness! Without making up new laws, how are we supposed to find criminals?”

      Seriously, and without criminals how can the state justify all the money it wastes on overpaid lazy cops, performing a relatively safe job, that bankrupt municipalities by retiring at 50 with almost full pay. When you are a hammer everything is a nail. And these particular hammers have VERY strong unions that have no shame about abusing taxpayers and violating the constitution.

      http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/commentary/police-pay-and-benefits-higher-than-more-dangerous-jobs

      There was a parasitic scumbag involved in Norman Gurley being pulled over, and society would be better off if that scumbag stopped being a drain on society. That person is not Norman Gurley.

      Some cops are actually standing up against the “drug war” police state:

      http://www.leap.cc/

      This is a small minority of brave cops. Most cops are happy to opportunistically hassle people like Norman Gurley to get promoted off of “important drug busts”.

      I don’t consume any currently prohibited drugs. But that would not be the case in 1930. So I don’t get riled up about the substances the government currently does not like. Also, farmers in my state could make a lot of money growing hemp. An issue supported on both sides of the aisle in my state.

      I pay a lot of taxes. Which I HATE seeing spent on high salaries to government employee morons like Lt. Michael Combs, to do pathetic make-work, and then brag about it.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Land Ark. That is so true. The douchbags will rip your stuff apart and when they find nothing they just leave you with your car destroyed by the side of the road. I guess the only restitution you have is revenge. Go to the nearest rest stop in the municipality that screwed you and if it is winter, at night shut off the gas valve outside the building on the coldest night you can. The cost of repairing the frozen pipes will at lease even the score.

  • avatar

    prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle…

    Not owning. I think the Dart gets a pass because, first, the cubby under the seat is factory stock and, second, the manufacturer intended it to be for concealing small valuables not drugs.

    The other thing is, if everyone knows about it, is the cubby under the seat really a “secret” compartment? In the end, it winds up being something like a glove box, just another storage cubby.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      How do you know the manufacturer intended it to hold small valuables rather than drugs? I think the Ohio State Police should arrest Dodge for conspiracy to smuggle drugs.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      Keep reading – the quoted statute says: “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”

      But I agree with the rest of your comment.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Good thing I never took my Fit to Ohio. When we bought the car I loudly laughed at the kilo-box hidden (actually hidden, no denying it) under the passenger rear seat. The salesman didn’t really know what to do about my waaaay too loud exclamations that the only possible purpose for this was brick shaped narcotic bundles. Hell, they even put it out of reach of the driver’s seat (warrant or probably cause required.) That very public comment of mine probably could have been a legal factor if it had been me in this hot seat.

        Joking aside it’s repulsive to me that this guy got a ticket at all. IF the car did smell (which I do not accept as given due to my own anecdotal experiences) the cop had every right to search him. A search however that led to wires being exposed means a car interior was totalled in the process. Meanwhile he has found no drugs so far and basically what he is doing is utterly destroying your property on a hunch, and then charging the guy with a BS statute to get something for his time. Shameful behavior.

        What this officer should have done is apologize abjectly to the person he just violated on the side of the road and arrange to fix the vehicle damage. He has no knowledge of what the stash spot is for, and he has no knowledge that the driver arranged for it to be installed.

        Side note…my old apt. was in the Bronx where a lot of these stash boxes are done. My old neighbor would actually get salvage cars fixed at a shop that specialized in this which is how I knew about it. They did sell these to people who transport documents, or licensed conceal carry owners who want to be more responsible than, “chuck it in the glovebox with the clip.”

      • 0 avatar

        You see, it’s details like this that mean I’ll never be an attorney.

      • 0 avatar
        HillbillyInBC

        Keep reading your ownself – the quoted statute says: “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”

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        And in the actual statute’s raw text (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241):

        (2) “Hidden compartment” means a container, space, or enclosure that conceals, hides, or otherwise prevents the discovery of the contents of the container, space, or enclosure. “Hidden compartment” includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

        (a) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks;

        (b) Any original factory equipment on a vehicle that has been modified to conceal, hide, or prevent the discovery of the modified equipment’s contents;

        (c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle.

        -

        We see that even with intent, an OEM, unmodified compartment is not a “hidden compartment” for these purposes.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      This puts a new spin on “Keistering”

      Google that, but you’ve been warned. :)

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I am sure Ohio allows the sale and taxing of such vehicles yet they are illegal (I know he is from Michigan but there must be at least one Dart in Ohio). Makes perfect sense, guilty until proven guilty. What next, the wooden horse ala the Inquisition?

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Dodge Journey has the same type of seat compartments.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “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”.”

    I think you meant “racist K-9″, not “well-trained K-9″

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    A few points to clarify:
    -The gentleman who was arrested was driving a Chevy truck, not a Dodge Dart.
    -His truck had been modified to have a hidden compartment, he was not arrested for an OEM storage area.
    -The TTAC writeup does a poor job of clarifying the two points above, or a good job of deliberately obscuring them. I’m not sure which.

    The law as provided in the article specifically does not apply to OEM storage areas or cubbies. The speculation that Dodge Darts or other cars with well-integrated storage may be subject to this law is baseless.

    • 0 avatar

      The law as written makes no distinction between an OEM storage area and one added to the vehicle if there is an intent to use that storage area to hide and/or transport controlled substances.

      “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, “

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You need to read the entire statute, and understand it.
        ________

        (B) No person shall knowingly design, build, construct, or fabricate a vehicle with a hidden compartment, or modify or alter any portion of a vehicle in order to create or add a hidden compartment, ***with the intent to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance.***
        ________

        (H)(1) This section does not apply to any licensed motor vehicle dealer or ***motor vehicle manufacturer*** that in the ordinary course of business repairs, purchases, receives in trade, leases, or sells a motor vehicle.
        ________

        http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241

        The law requires intent and exempts the automakers.

        You really ought to run these stories past an attorney prior to running them.

        • 0 avatar
          Jellodyne

          Run the stories past an attorney? Why bother, when you can run them past an agenda instead? Why, you can shape and mold them to tell a story about runaway gob’ment dogooding, while conveniently ignoring actual, you know, FACTS.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m sorry, I didn’t realize one had to be a member of a legal guild to understand American laws. I’m reminded of a rabbi that I knew who said that his ordination didn’t come with the phone number of a more important rabbi. Laws should be written so that people who have to obey them can understand them, not so that cops and prosecutors can decide what they mean or so that you have to pay a member of a monopolistic guild for legal advice to stay on the right side of the law.

          If someone has the intent to use a factory supplied hidden compartment to transport illegal drugs are you saying that they aren’t in violation of this law as written?

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            At that point the headline would become “News flash: It is against the law to transport illegal drugs in your car!”

            It’s pretty clear that the intent of the law was not to cover OEM cubbies and storage, and rather to prevent people from installing truly hidden cargo areas in their cars. Sure, it would be nice if the statute had a clear statement ruling out all OEM storage areas. One could argue that it already does.

            The way you wrote the headline and article was at best unclear and at worst deliberately misleading. Was it your intent to mislead the reader?

            Does one have to be a member of a journalism guild to clearly explain the facts of an event in a manner that gives the reader an accurate understanding of what occurred?

            Clearly many of the early readers of the TTAC post thought the guy was arrested for the underseat compartment on a Dodge Dart.

            Are you aware of any case in history where a vehicle was ruled legal to sell and plate but illegal to operate in unmodified form?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Ronnie S,

            If you use the Dart’s storage compartment to hide drugs, you are in violation of this law because of the INTENT, not because the Dart has a hidden storage compartment.

            Similarly, I can put any hidden storage compartment I want into any car I own, as long as I have no intent to hide drugs in that compartment. Now maybe I get pulled over and sited under this law by an overzealous cop, but the state then has to prove intent to convict me. The fact that the hidden storage compartment in the cited case reeked of maryjane is a pretty good indicator of intent. The cops have better things to do than hassle folks over the underseat bin in a Dart.

            This is one of those rare occasions where I completely and 100% agree with PCH101, you need to read and understand the ENTIRE statute before getting your knickers in a twist about it.

            I will agree with you that laws ARE written by lawyers for lawyers, but this one is not particularly obtuse. Full disclosure – I did go to law school but I am not a practicing attorney.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Mr. Schreiber, you mangle the facts and discredit yourself whenever you write one of these legal “exposes” of yours.

            If you don’t like the compartment law, that’s fine. But instead of providing a thoughtful assessment of its flaws, the only thing that you’ve achieved here is to prove that you don’t understand it.

          • 0 avatar
            TheOtherLew

            To Ronnie Scheiber:

            No, you don’t have to be a member of a legal guild to understand the law. But what you do need is basic reading comprehension skills. And honesty in reporting the actual facts of a news story without misleading the reading public.

            And, as someone else pointed out, you might want to learn a little bit about the 4th Amendment before you make silly, irrelevant statements about it.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        True – but it DOES define “hidden compartment” in a way that excludes all or virtuall all OEM spaces that are not modified to hide contents.

        (See any number of posts upstream for links and excerpts from the Statute; in essence, “hidden compartment’ means “any compartment modified to look empty when it isn’t”, not just “any compartment whose existence is not obvious, say, because it’s under a seat or in a console”.)

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      “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.”

      The law specifically prohibits a person with a drug conviction from owning a Dodge Dart.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      While I agree the statute probably isn’t geared toward OEM storage areas, I think it actually would apply to an OEM storage area that the vehicle owner/driver uses, intends to use, or knows someone else uses or intends to use to store contraband. The middle part of the statute says nothing about whether the compartment is OEM or aftermarket:

      “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.

      You drive a Dodge Dart and find out your teenage kid sometimes drives it and stores (or some friend of his stores) weed in the seed, YOU are violating this statute!! Same would apply to me and my wife’s minivan, which has an OEM hidden compartment under the floor (if anyone used or intended to use it for that purpose). Of course, this just illustrates the breadth and potential absurdity of this statute.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @cirats

        No, you are not, because *you* have no intent to use the compartment for that purpose. Intent is quite hard to prove in the absence of other evidence. Your kid could be in violation though. Plus the statute does exempt factory storage compartments anyway, quite clearly.

        Amazingly enough, cops and prosecutors do generally have a modicum of common sense in these things. Not to say that there haven’t been cases of Dad getting screwed over because Jr left a baggie under the seat of the car. But in that case, I figure it is just desserts for poor parenting.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          I think half the problem is that nobody’s been quoting the ACTUAL statute in detail.

          I just looked it up (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241).

          And I found:

          ” (2) “Hidden compartment” means a container, space, or enclosure that conceals, hides, or otherwise prevents the discovery of the contents of the container, space, or enclosure. “Hidden compartment” includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

          (a) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks;

          (b) Any original factory equipment on a vehicle that has been modified to conceal, hide, or prevent the discovery of the modified equipment’s contents;

          (c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle. ”

          Thus you are absolutely right that no OEM-provided “hidden compartment” IS a “hidden compartment” for the purposes of this statute.

          (The way OEM is mentioned specifically only if “modified” is as close to explicitly saying “unmodified is never covered” as you’ll ever get.

          And also no OEM “hidden compartments” I’ve seen ever “prevents the discovery of the contents of the container, space, or enclosure”.)

          Thus the entire writeup is faulty (and so are my comments above relying on its summary rather than the statute, suggesting that an OEM compartment might be in violation to the extent that intent could be shown by the operator/possessor).

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Point taken. So, here’s the problem: as the photo illustrates, Dodge’s Dart has such a compartment built-in. If I’m not mistaken, Ram or some other pickup tracks have such compartments on the floor between the front and rear seats on crew cab models. These compartments are lockable and, I believe, ordinarily are covered by the floor mats, so they are “hidden.” Assuming that someone isn’t stopped who is actually carrying contraband (in which case it doesn’t matter whether the compartment is factory-installed or custom-made, or whether there’s a “compartment” at all), what evidence is available to distinguish between the driver’s “intent” to use the compartment for transporting illegal substances? The mere existence of the compartment cannot be such evidence. There are certainly any number of legal reasons to want a lockable hidden compartment . . . which is why manufacturers offer them.

      So, I think this law is a big fail, because it does not give an officer a reliable way of distinguishing between legal and illegal “hidden compartments.” It’s overbroad and therefore subject to abuse, as appears to be the case in this instance.

      And, FWIW, I think the officer’s claim of “strong smell” of marijuana is a pretty thin probable cause to search the vehicle. I agree that burning marijuana has a strong and distinctive smell, but I question whether just plain ol’ marijuana has such a strong smell that it is detectable by a human even after every trace of it has been removed from the vehicle. Dogs, maybe, but, as anyone who has worked with dogs knows, dogs are very sensitive to their handler’s cues; so I wouldn’t agree that a dog is a neutral observer. No one talks about, or apparently has studied, the number of “false positives” produced by police dogs.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        It does smell, it’s just that the smell excuse gets trotted out too often for the wrong reasons. You wouldn’t be able to transport it until it is stored and cured, at which point it can positively overwhelm a room. I spent a summer working with a dog trainer and he seemed to emphasize that dogs might even end up only responding to the strains they’ve been trained on so I would assume that applies to fresh vs cured. He would constantly request different source samples from the escorts. I never worked up the balls to offer to help myself (I was young but not dumb.)

        Fun game; get on a ny subway car that smells skunky and try to ID the delivery service kid.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yes and no.

        As presented by the article here, you’re right.

        The actual statue’s language – relevantly, “Any original factory equipment on a vehicle that has been modified to conceal, hide, or prevent the discovery of the modified equipment’s contents” excepts OEM compartments *entirely*, unless modified, thus undercutting that thesis (which was perfectly justified by the lack of detail the article presented).

  • avatar
    mcs

    How do they go about proving intent to transport drugs? As far as the Dart goes, that compartment looks like it was designed to facilitate long distance non-stop road travel.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Ever notice how the law, and its enforcers, always assume that every violation of their legal code is a DELIBERATE, WILLFUL criminal act, as opposed to someone blindly straying over some arbitrary line that the “offender” didn’t even know was there in the first place?

    I’m no brian-rotted pothead, but I can’t imagine that the problems of legalized marijuana would be worse than the situation we have now.

    Alcohol prohibition gave us the Mafia and a powerful federal government. Drug prohibition gave us militarized police and the Medellin Cartel.

    I’d rather have the hippies and stoners – at least they won’t kick your door in at 3 AM.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      http://www.cato.org/raidmap

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well the world has not come to an end in Washington State and since Murilee keeps posting my guess is it hasn’t come to an end in Colorado either.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      This law “assumes” every violation of it is willful and deliberate because – quite correctly, for a criminal law – the requirement of *knowing* violation is built into the law.

      What’s wrong with THAT?

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        “Knowing the law” would be a reasonable expectation to make of the common man if the entire legal code consisted of, say, The Ten Commandments. But in the modern USA, there are simply too many little pissant laws and rules to be aware of.

        Besides, the very existence of the legal profession means that the State doesn’t really expect the common man to know the law. If the common man knew the law, he wouldn’t need to hire a lawyer.

        I get that the notion of “ignorance of the law…” has been around for millennia, but does that make the concept fundamentally just?

        I say that it doesn’t.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    I doubt very much that this law will stand up to the appeals process.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Depends how much money Norman Gurley has to appeal. Otherwise he is stuck with an overworked public defender against a prosecutor trying to make a name with drug war convictions, and being pushed on by the Fraternal Order of Police or whatever cop union it is to have the parasite Lt. Michael Combs look like some drug war hero for hassling a civilian.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOlds

        I didn’t say it would necessarily be Gurley’s appeal.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          Agree. Merely possessing a car with a secret compartment would not constitute intent. This should be an easy statute to overturn on appeal. The proper test case would be one in which the defendant kept his or her mouth shut at the beginning of the stop. It would be like charging a felon with gun possession because he had a holster.

          • 0 avatar
            TheOtherLew

            It isn’t that the statute would be “overturned” on appeal, but a particular conviction could be thrown out if the appellate court finds that there was legally insufficient evidence to support the intent part of the crime.

            Also, the trial judge could throw out the case on the basis. Or, the judge could exclude evidence (e.g., a supposed “overwhelming smell” of marijuana) as irrelevant to the issue of intent to transport controlled substances in the hidden compartment. Or, of course, a jury could find that the intent element was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    What a BS sensationalist article you posted! Oh my god, the World is Ending!

    The law seems to be pretty clear – intent to modify or use modified vehicle to transport drugs. The dimwit news reporters seem to imply that the hidden compartment was of the nature of the tail light sliding back.

    They busted a transporter. BFD He could have been transporting guns for the next mass shooting.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      That is a pretty far stretch. Like saying BFD a cop got shot, he could have been the next cop involved in a botched raid on the wrong house that killed an innocent civilian. The world is better off.

      Nobody has any idea what a person’s intent is, unless they find actual drugs. Which is why the law and arrest are both garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        It’s not as simple as that. There are laws out there (I’m looking at you Florida and Texas) that are so vague that amount to if you ever thought about doing/transporting/selling/manufacturing drugs and there is some circumstantial evidence, you’re screwed

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        I bet that if you find the supporting affidavits, you will see the cops spelling out the intent – MI vehicle, known trafficking highway, stench of unburned weed, home-rigged concealed space, etc. All together adds up to showing of intent to transport something illicit. But in the end, even without conviction, they just broke one link in the chain and I bet they are happy about that.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps you can show us where in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that it says anything about “could have been” doing something illegal.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Ronnie civil, 4th and 1st amendment rights and drug laws have very little in common

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Here’s a little more background on intention:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intention_(criminal_law)

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          It’s vague and open to interpretation, which means it can be applied at will to cover anything that can even remotely be connected to criminal activity. It’s like being accused of plotting a murder because you possess bullets even though you have no gun

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        Intent is key. Too many cases to cite.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Perhaps you can show us where in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that it says anything about “could have been” doing something illegal.”

        There’s a lot wrong with that statement. Here’s just some of it:

        -The Fourth Amendment is subject to interpretation. You can’t understand it without also knowing the case law that determines its interpretation.

        -The Fourth Amendment prohibits illegal search and seizure. It doesn’t prevent the state from passing anti-drug laws or enforcing those laws.

        -Intent is an element of many crimes. An act without intent may be legal or a lesser violation.

        -There are crimes that don’t require action. Conspiracy is a well-known example of a crime of what “could have been”, as the act of planning to commit a crime with others is itself committing a crime.

        -In this case, the crime is not one of what “could have been”, but of what was. Ohio has decided, rightly or wrongly, to ban these vehicle modifications, and it is the possession of those vehicle modifications that serve as the basis for this charge.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Stumpmaster

      I’d agree that they may have (alright probably) caught a transporter. They may have also just ruined some guys car and legal reputation because someone else modified the vehicle. For all they know it was done because the guy thought the compartment was cool or because he’s into weird car hacks.

      No part of “may have” is justification enough for the ruination that is hitting this guys life right now. They failed to catch an actual smuggler smuggling. That should be the end of the story, record the plate and keep an eye out in the future at most.

      What should be noted is resistance to this charge stems from the public at large not supporting the drug war nearly as much as law enforcement does. Everyone is basically saying, this could happen to someone for shipping pot around? Are you kidding me?

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        “the guy thought the compartment was cool or because he’s into weird car hacks.”

        Yeah right!

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          I know I know. But if i think these things are super cool (they are) then I have to assume someone will do it for that reason. I’ve seen Gullwing doors on hyundai hatchbacks so…

          There are legitimate uses as well we can’t ignore.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        As long as there is no intent to use the compartment for the transportation of drugs, no law has been broken. In this case, the police AND the prosecutor think there is enough evidence of intent to prosecute the case.

        Intent is actually quite difficult to prove without other corroborating evidence. You can be ARRESTED pretty much at the whim of a cop, but you can’t be convicted without evidence. And you can sue for false arrest.

        If I am deeply religious and want to install a secret compartment in my BMW to hold my St. Christopher statue, that is perfectly legal, because I did not install the compartment to hold drugs. if I get pulled over than and the cops find it, they will have to PROVE that my intent was to carry drugs, not a saint. Good luck with that, boys.

  • avatar
    Not2Bright

    Ronnie Schreiber, your article seems to have been purposefully written to imply that the guy was arrested only because police found his Dodge Dart’s OEM hidden storage compartment. Judging by some of the early comments, many readers probably interpreted it that way.
    It would have been an interesting story on its own merits, without the misleading slant.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Without drugs being present how do you determine intent. I have a friend who was in the jewelery business. Carried a lot of cash and of course a lot of jewelery. He didn’t have anything like this, just used a briefcase which he set on the front passenger floor but I could see where a hidden compartment could be beneficial when you’re carrying a lot cash or other LEGAL valuables.

    This reminds me of police departments seizing cash from drivers on I-95 because noone who carries that much cash is doing anything legal but there are business and people who operate legally and deal in cash. So you need to prove to the police that the cash wasn’t for anything nefarious and if you can’t they keep it.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    As Secret Hi5 mentioned, this article is (intentionally?) misleading.

    It seems, as written- that the gentleman was arrested for driving his Dodge Dart with a trivial “hidden compartment” under the passenger’s seat cushion without having anything in it under the new law about hidden compartments on vehicles.

    What REALLY happened is the genleman was arrested for driving his Silverado 1500 with slideout tail lights (pictured above) under aforementioned new law, and the author found a way to tie an interesting news story to a rather trivial peice of automotive design…. forgetting to ensure the readers knew about the deviation in plot from seized Chevy Silverdo to innocent Dodge Dart.

  • avatar
    TheOtherLew

    As others have pointed out, this article, and especially its headline, is garbage journalism.

    For one thing, as others have pointed out, the law requires more than the existence of the hidden compartment. There has to be the intent to transport/conceal controlled substances.

    But, what makes this article especially stupid is that the law defines “hidden compartment” to apply to alterations, not to original equipment.

    The law is online at:
    http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.241

    2923.241(A)(2) defines “hidden compartment” as follows:

    (2) “Hidden compartment” means a container, space, or enclosure that conceals, hides, or otherwise prevents the discovery of the contents of the container, space, or enclosure. “Hidden compartment” includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

    (a) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks;

    (b) Any original factory equipment on a vehicle that has been modified to conceal, hide, or prevent the discovery of the modified equipment’s contents;

    (c) Any compartment, space, box, or other closed container that is added or attached to existing compartments, spaces, boxes, or closed containers integrated or attached to a vehicle.

    Now, it is true that the law says that the definition of “hidden compartment” is not limited to the 3 explicit definitions in (a), (b), and (c). But, given that all 3 of these explicit definitions require an alteration to the original equipment, and that the definition also requires concealment, the idea that this law may apply to an unmodified Dodge Dart is ridiculous, misleading, and, basically, stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I think there is also opposition to the idea that it’s easy to be charged for creating a secret compartment. There are legitimate reasons to do so, such as transporting valuables, confidential documents or licensed firearms. There were no drugs in this case and yet he was charged and is being publicly labeled as a gang member by police, so the intent side of the equation clearly isn’t the impediment it should be.

      Also, what about used cars? What about borrowed cars? Will they start ripping interiors apart at owner expense to enforce this law? All overkill when the issue at play (in this case) seems to just be pot.

      • 0 avatar
        TheOtherLew

        [To tedward:]

        I think there are legitimate reasons for criticizing this law. It will be interesting to see, for example, what kind of circumstantial evidence will be used to try to prove intent, and whether that holds up in court. And, of course, there is the potential for police/prosecution abuse. Has anyone else noticed, for example, that in the reported case the defendant was also Driving While Black?

        But, apart from the legitimate cricitism, there is “Are Dodge Darts Illegal in Ohio?”, which is stupid/garbage journalism.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Fair enough. Someone I know purchased a pre-owned Sonata back in late 2011—at a new-car dealership, mind you—and a bag of marijuana plopped into his lap when he unfolded the sun visor.

        • 0 avatar
          MrGreenMan

          All I got on a recent used car purchase was two pockets full of Febreeze/Glade car fresheners, a gigantic pink ribbon, and a stack of Kelly Clarkson and Train CDs.

          The used car mongers don’t clean them up like they used to.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            True, When we found the pre-owned 2012 Sonata Limited this summer and drove it home for a day, it was full of CDs and children’s toys. It even had the original owner’s number plate still on it. All the dealership had done was take it in on trade, put an inventory sticker on it, and put it up for sale. It had obviously not been detailed, but we made them prepare it really nicely when we brought it back to buy it.

            Maybe it’s something to do with Sonatas…

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Now that’s a rebate.

    • 0 avatar
      Frank Galvin

      I’m not seeing a conviction here, but I am seeing a bullshit arrest, idiotic reporting, lack of probable cause and a 4th amendment issue.

      This law requires mens rea, a “guilty mind” to sustain a conviction. At issue is part (C)”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.

      So in other words the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time Mr. Gurley was driving through bucolic Northeast Ohio he knew 1) the car had a hidden compartment and 2) that the hidden compartment was used to conceal or transport illegal drugs.

      Ironically, Mr. Gurley could have a car full of hidden compartments and be using it to smuggle 9mm pistols and he would not be violating this particular law (other laws certainly, but not this).

      The idiotic news crew stated that it is a now a felony to drive a car in Ohio with a hidden compartment. Actaully no, its perfectly legal, as there is a safe harbor clause, “(I) This section does not apply to a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms provided that at the time of discovery the box, safe, container, or other item added to the vehicle does not contain a controlled substance or VISIBLE residue of a controlled substance.”

      Look for the jewelry or Iphone defence coming to a court room near you. And now plenty of body shops can advertise “Secure Safety Compartments – Protect Your Jewelry and Electronics”

      Noteworthy is that the cops did not state whether they actually had a “hit” on the compartment for drug residue. Just an “overwhelming” smell that supposedly gave them the oppurtunity to rip the car apart and find the wires (apparently not in plain view)to then find the hide.

      I’m sure that the police had been watching Mr. Gurley, or had a tip, and the speeding stop was no accident. But come on, with the intent requirements, they police are going to need a lot more than smell to sustain a conviction. So what happens is that the law will now act as civil forfeiture and he’ll lose the vehicle during the pendency of the case, and who knows what he’ll incur for costs to get it back. Ridiculous. Once they had the smell, they should have brought in the K9 to get a hit.

  • avatar
    AdamVIP

    Seems to me that per the wording of the law they are going to have to prove that the person intended to use it to traffic illegal stuff. Thats a hard sell when you dont actually have a bunch of illegal stuff in there and no other charges to bring at the same time. Seems at best this is just an add on charge when they catch someone with something illegal.

    That being said, I think the police overstepped on this one.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    > Norman Gurley was [...] charged with a felony despite the fact that
    > he was not violating drug, weapon or any other contraband laws.

    I suppose that’s true, if you don’t count the law we’re discussing here as a drug or contraband law. But it’s definitely not a weapon law, so you’re at least 1/3 correct.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Sure, that law works for the Dart, alright…except that law enforcement would actually have to prove that the manufacturer’s intent was to conceal drugs…and the only way *that* could work out is if Chrysler Group advertised the compartment as being able to conceal drugs, or if the company outright stated that the compartment was for drugs…nome of which is likely, you understand. What’s more, why would this be the first time we heard about this issue? What about Stow ‘n Go, which is almost ten years old, and surely better-suited to drug concealment? And didn’t MINI at some point advertise an under-seat compartment that could hold pizza boxes?

    I’m starting to think that this article was written facetiously, but it’s hard to tell…

  • avatar

    How about the hidden compartment in the Impala’s Nav Screen – or the XTS’?

  • avatar
    red60r

    I can’t count the number of “hidden” compartments under the cargo floor of our Forester. What about spare-tire wells? The umbrella hole in the door of a VW sedan?

  • avatar
    blackbolt

    Thank god he was not driving a Ridgeline – He mighta gotten a life sentence.

  • avatar
    crm114

    “No, your honor, the compartment is for transporting stolen guns.”
    “Sorry for the hassle, you’re free to go.”

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Total dope car.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I believe Pontiac G8s, with their OEM clear taillight lenses, were briefly illegal in certain states that outlawed that particular fad. Or maybe they still are, somewhere…

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It’s a valid argument. While the non-OEM modification of the vehicle in question was clearly intended to transport contraband (what other purpose could exist for a secret taillight compartment?), today’s police departments have a very bad habit of twisting new laws to do whatever the hell they want (with many courts’ consent, no less). IOW, it’s quite conceivable that cops in the future will randomly stop ‘any’ Dodge Dart, simply because they know there is a secret compartment contained within. The idea would be that driving a car known to have OEM ‘secret compartments’, in and of itself, is probably cause for a stop and search. It would be vehicle profiling, sort of like stopping all 1960 Buick Invictas because that was the car favored by the smugglers in The French Connection.

    Further, I can see a state like, say, New Mexico implementing a similar new law but not limiting it to vehicles. They could say that human beings have illegal ‘secret compartments’, as well.

    Then there wouldn’t have been any issue at all when David Eckert (the guy who got lots of ‘probings’ after a traffic stop by Deming, NM PD, including digital penetrations, enemas, X-rays, and even a colonoscopy, all over a 14 hour period) had an integral, illegal ‘secret compartment’ on his person.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> what other purpose could exist for a secret taillight compartment?

      Hiding expensive tools or a laptop. Anyway, it’s the owner’s business as to what he stores in the compartment as long as it isn’t illegal drugs. Anyway, this case will probably get tossed eventually. What isn’t known is how much money will be spent by taxpayers trying to defend the law when the ACLU challenges it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The law could be misconstrued, but many other laws could as well. If police want to search a car, they can if there’s probable cause. If there’s no probable cause, there’s no search.

      In the case of the Dart, they’d find nothing illegal, since the storage compartment is factory-installed. This is a non-issue.

      Now, if we want to argue whether cops shouldn’t be able to search cars on probable cause, that’s a legitimate discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I would argue that it is by definition not a “secret” compartment if everybody knows its there. Certainly not if it is featured in the OEM’s product literature or website.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If you want to build a secret compartment to carry granola or beef jerky or shaving cream, it’s perfectly legal. It’s having that compartment for the purpose of transporting drugs that makes it illegal.

        The law makes it pretty clear that a compartment built by an OEM, secret or otherwise, isn’t illegal.

  • avatar
    zeg

    The craziest hidden compartment I saw was when law enforcement did a search on a car and saw two pop rivets about a 1/2″ apart inside one of the dash air vents. They shorted out the two rivets with a coin and the bottom of the gas tank dropped down with a whole lot of drugs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This article was misleading. The law in question doesn’t apply to factory installed storage devices; otherwise, you could get arrested for driving a car with a glove box.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    I grew up in communist totalitarian country and I had hidden compartment
    in my car without a problem.
    You live in free democracy or DO YOU?

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    This country is really turning into a total sh!thole. We have let these crooked politicians, judges and police and other agencies gain way too much power and control and the abuse has just run rampant. It really is time to reign this sh!t in, it has gone too far already.

  • avatar
    Hillman

    Please stop posting these stories if you keep getting the facts wrong. This makes the whole site look really bad.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    All Mini Coopers have “hidden” compartments in the dash. Many owners don’t even know it’s there!!

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    So will there be any sort of retraction of the speculation about Dodge Darts being illegal in Ohio now that it’s been pretty clearly demonstrated with direct quotes from the statue that it does not apply to OEM storage areas?

    Failing that, can we at least modify the original article to make it clear that Mr. Gurley was not driving a Dart, and was arrested for an aftermarket rather than OEM compartment?

    Mr. Schreiber, was it your intention to make the casual reader think that the arrest was related to an OEM Dart storage area?

  • avatar
    shelvis

    I’d love to see the back of the author’s car. I’m sure it’s pasted with all kinds of informative and mind blowing bumper stickers.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      In the area that Ronnie lives in, you are more likely to see “Obama/Biden”, “Bush Lied, People Died”, or something to do with supporting Debbie Stabenow or Carl Levin than anything else. Even if he did have right wing bumper stickers, which I doubt, he couldn’t hope to balance out the congressional district in which he resides. He’s either in the 9th or 12th Congressional district in Michigan, and they are as blue as blue can be.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I believe that the point is that the author has an unfortunate tendency to write articles that appeal to his political views but are woefully inaccurate.

        It’s fine to hold an opinion. But an opinion that is based upon falsehoods isn’t much of an opinion.

        This isn’t the first time that he has revealed his lack of understanding of the law. It would be preferable that he learned about topics prior to writing about them. Misinforming the readership is especially ironic when you consider the name of this website.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    This law might cover all of those colorectal exams that guy got for walking seductively past a cop with clenched butt cheeks……… being a hidden storage compartment and all….


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