Fact: it’s illegal to have a hidden compartment in your car in Ohio.
Norman Gurley, 30, was arrested last Fall for having what officers called a “hidden compartment” in his car. He was the first Ohio resident to be arrested under the law despite the fact that the compartment was completely empty.
Gurley was pulled over by an Ohio state trooper for speeding last November. The trooper claimed he smelled the “overwhelming odor of raw marijuana” when Gurley rolled down his window. The officer then spent hours searching Gurley’s car for drugs but found none.
During the search, the officer found a non-factory cut out section in Gurley’s trunk. The section was covered by the car’s interior plastics and could potentially be used to store a number of things. Although there were no drugs or other illegal items in the box, Gurley was arrested under an Ohio statute that makes it a crime to “knowingly operate…a vehicle with a hidden compartment…used or intended to be used to facilitate the unlawful concealment…of a controlled substance.”
California, Georgia, Oregon, and Oregon have similar statutes in place. Several more states are contemplating following suit.
It’s not hard to see how the law could cause law-abiding citizens to be charged with a crime. A compartment like Gurley’s could serve a perfectly legitimate purpose as a place to hold cash and other valuables. Someone owning a used car could be completely unaware that the previous owner of their vehicle cut out a hidden compartment in the car.
Despite the seemingly obvious problems with the law, Ohio law enforcement officers enthusiastically endorse it. State Highway Patrol officer Michael Combs was interviewed by WKYC about the statute following Gurley’s controversial arrest. Here’s what he had to say.
“This takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade,” he said. “The law does help us and is on our side.”