A man was arrested in Ohio for having a hidden compartment in a vehicle and could face up to 18 months in prison, even though there was nothing in the compartment.
Just days before Thanksgiving, 30- year old Norman Gurley was pulled over for speeding, but Ohio State Troopers noticed wires running to the back of the car he was driving.
“During the search, they noticed some components inside the vehicle that did not appear to be factory,” Lt. Michael Combs told WKYC-TV.
"We actually figured it out and followed the wiring and we were able to get it open," said Combs.
There were no illegal drugs or weapons in the compartment, but Gurley became the first person arrested under the state’s “hidden compartment” law.
The Ohio law passed last year 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.”
This law makes driving a car with a concealed compartment intended to carry a controlled substance a felony.
Troopers reportedly noticed an overwhelming smell of marijuana, which gave them probable cause to search the vehicle and led to the discovery of the compartment.
The arrest has given voice to those critical to the law, who claim that just having a hidden space in a vehicle shouldn’t be considered a crime.
The ACLU of Ohio had been opposed to the measure. A statement on the ACLU website says, “The ACLU of Ohio believes SB 305 is 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.”
Reason.com reports that Gurley’s lawyer, Myron Watson, claims that Gurley has no criminal record and the vehicle he was driving was a friend’s and that Gurley had no knowledge of the compartment.
A passenger in the vehicle was found in possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana.