Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Have a secret compartment in your car? That’s illegal.

A compartment on a factory model Chevrolet

Elected officials in California, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon have made just the possession of a secret compartment in your car illegal. So, if you are pulled over and cops find a secret compartment in your car, even with nothing in it, you could be arrested and jailed. In Ohio, it’s actually a felony.

The Ohio statute prohibits “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.”

Who’s to say what your intentions are, so it might be wise to un-hide your compartments.

And it’s not just Ohio making life a little less hidden-compartmenty for us. California, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon all have similar laws, while lawmakers in IowaMaryland, and New Jersey may subject their citizens to similar laws soon.

The law is making the choice of going car-less even more popular with millennials.

But that wasn’t the case for 30-year-old Norman Gurley, who was pulled over in Ohio and a cop smelled marijuana in his car. After a search turned up no pot but did find a secret compartment, he and his friend were hauled off to jail. His friend was later discovered to be holding a bag of pot in his pocket. But the arrest wouldn’t have taken place if it weren’t for the compartment law. And, in other cases, the compartment law is being used to pile on charges after drugs are found, according to quotes Law Professor Jonathan Turley calling the Ohio incident “part of the expanding criminalization of America where virtually any act can be charged as a crime by police.” Turley teaches law at  George Washington University.

The laws also might pose problems for owners of used cars that may have hidden compartments that are unknown to their owners until a police search. And what about compartments are are actually built into cars, like the one in the Chevy pictured above? Subject to police interpretation? Seems like another worry and headache for vehicle-owners to us.



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