Driver Arrested Under Ohio Law Making 'Hidden' Compartments A Felony

Ohio police arrested a driver because his car contained a compartment that could theoretically store illegal drugs, though no drugs were found at the time.

A search didn’t find any drugs on a 30-year-old Michigan man, but that didn’t stop police from making him the first person in the state to be arrested for violating a relatively new law that purportedly seeks to combat drug trafficking by prohibiting the use of vehicles containing hidden compartments.

WKYC-TV reports 30-year-old Norman Gurley was originally pulled over for speeding in Lorain County, Ohio Tuesday when State Highway Patrol troopers noticed wires running to the back of his car.

“During the search, they noticed some components inside the vehicle that did not appear to be factory,” Lt. Michael Combs told WKYC.

Even though Gurley did not have any illegal drugs or weapons in the car, he was still arrested due to the state’s “hidden compartment” law, becoming the first person to be arrested under this law in the state.

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,” a felony of the fourth degree, a violation punishable by up to 18 months in prison.

Yet according to the law, it’s unclear if troopers were even in the right.

Sec. 2923.241 (I) of the law states it “does not apply to a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms,” as long as said container “does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance.”

The new law was sponsored by Ohio State Senators Hughes (R), and Patton (R).

The ACLU of Ohio took issue with the law last year stating it was “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.”


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Combs says the compartment was big enough to hold "several pounds" of drugs.

“We apparently caught them between runs, so to speak, so this takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade,” Combs told WKYC. “The law does help us and is on our side.

Gurley was released after posting bond.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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