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Jury Nullification | 21 Feb 2014

-The ‘Crime’ of Having a Hidden Compartment in Your Car


Jury BoxNo drugs? No problem! Cops in several states already can or hope soon to be able to arrest you simply for HAVING EMPTY SPACE in the car where you MIGHT be able to hide drugs EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T!

The ‘Crime’ of Having a Hidden Compartment in Your Car

Last fall, Ohio state troopers pulled 30-year-old Norman Gurley over for speeding. Detecting an “overwhelming smell of raw marijuana,” officers spent hours searching the vehicle and found no contraband.

But they did discover an empty secret compartment.

For that, police hauled Gurley, who has no criminal record, off to jail. Gurley became the first person arrested under a new 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.”

Lawmakers in Ohio are not alone in enacting or envisioning bans on unauthorized empty space. California, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon have similar prohibitions on the books. Legislators in Iowa, Maryland, and New Jersey may add them this session. Similar bills have been filed in Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in recent years.

While it is difficult to find any benefit to society from wasting money locking harmless people up for having hidden empty spaces in their cars that they may not even know about themselves, it is easy to spot the benefit to law enforcement. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley explains:
Ohio Man Arrested For Having Hidden Compartment In The Car . . . Without Drugs Or Guns

Note that prosecutors already have criminal enterprise and conspiracy laws to nail people involved in the drug trade. This crime turns on the dubious distinction of an intention to use the compartment for illegal purposes. Moreover, it allows for the proliferation of charges in cases where drugs are found. Instead of just being charged with the drug possession, intent to distribute, and other conventional charges, the Ohio prosecutors can add a charge for the actual compartment in the car. Such proliferation of counts allows prosecutors to force people to plead guilty to avoid long potential sentences.

This is another on an already looming stack of tactics the government has to bully people into forfeiting their right to trial by jury, and as a result, any hope of jury nullification.