When Norman Gurley was pulled over for speeding on Tuesday, Ohio state troopers did not find any drugs in his car. However, Gurley is now facing felony drug-related charges simply because his car had a “hidden compartment,” the likes of which was outlawed in the state in 2012.
Gurley, 30, is the first person to be arrested for breaking the new regulation. The rule makes it unlawful to create a compartment with the intent to conceal narcotics or guns.
Police did not report any suspicious behavior, and only found the compartment because they saw some loose wires and began to search further.
“During the search, they noticed some components inside the vehicle that did not appear to be factory,” says Lt. Michael Combs.
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Although the compartment could only be opened electronically, the police discovered how to open it with some investigating. “We figured it out and followed the wiring and we were able to get it open,” said Combs.
Combs also said, “Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any charges on the suspect … 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.”
The ACLU of Ohio is unhappy with the law, and has expressed concern over people being convicted of drug charges with no actual evidence of drugs.
“Drug trafficking is already prohibited under Ohio law, so there is no use for shifting the focus to the container,” the organization has stated. “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.”