Carpe Diem

America, here’s your War on Drugs: A felony drug arrest in Ohio for NOT possessing or trafficking drugs

Among the many dangers of America’s War on Drugs is that it has unleashed a tsunami of government power, led to a militarization of law enforcement agencies addicted to the funding that comes from waging the government’s war, filled America’s prisons with non-violent drug offenders, and resulted in assaults on the private property of innocent Americans through government abuses of civil forfeiture laws.  For example, the federal government recently used civil forfeiture laws to seize all of the money from a Detroit-area grocery store’s bank account and in 2009 seized a small, family-owned hotel in Massachusetts. In both of those cases, the small, family-owned businesses had no connection to drugs or the drug business, but became innocent victims of America’s War on Drugs the American People, Many of Whom Are Innocent.”

The latest innocent victim of America’s cruel, shameful and longest War is a 30-year old man named Norman Gurley, who was arrested this week for a “secret compartment full of nothing” as Reason described it, or for “not trafficking drugs” as Brian Anderson described. As the news video above explains it, Gurley was stopped for speeding in Ohio, but then state troopers arrested Gurley, confiscated his car, put him in jail, and charged him with a felony crime under the state’s new “hidden compartment” law. No drugs were found in Gurley’s vehicle or in his possession. Here’s how Brian Anderson describes what happened:

Taking a page from the Gestapo handbook, the state of Ohio has recently enacted a law that makes a certain type of modification on cars a felony. The “hidden compartment” law makes it illegal to create any type of secret stash within a vehicle, which could be used to transport controlled substances. It doesn’t matter if there are any illegal drugs present, just having the hidden compartment is grounds for arrest and a class 4 felony. 30-year old Norman Gurley will go down in history as the first person arrested under this Constitutionally abrasive law.

Clearly the state troopers had nothing more than the “illegal” compartment or they would have gleefully offered that evidence. This is a bad law and another reason why we should abandon our failed war on drugs. Our prisons are filled to capacity with people charged with nothing more than possession of drugs. Do we really need to spend more precious tax dollars to house people for possessing nothing?

In a related and tragic case that went to trial last year, see the Wired.com article “Alfred Anaya Put Secret Compartments in Cars. So the DEA Put Him in Prison.” Here’s a summary from a CD post in September:

Alfred Anaya was a genius at installing secret compartments in cars. If they were used to smuggle drugs without his knowledge, he figured that wasn’t his problem. He was wrong. The DEA put him in federal prison for more than 24 years with no possibility of parole. He’ll be 64 years old when he’s released from prison.

Bottom Line (modified from this quote about the “educational octopus“), inspired by Norman Gurley’s felony drug arrest for not trafficking drugs and Alfred Anaya cruel 24-year sentence for customizing cars:

The Drug War Octopus

A government-sponsored War on Drugs will increasingly foster and spread the doctrine of state supremacy as the War is waged on the citizenry. Once that doctrine of state supremacy has been accepted by the people, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the government’s War on Drugs over the life of the average, and many times, innocent citizen. The government’s Drug War has the citizen’s body, property, vehicles and mind in its clutches. An octopus would sooner release its prey. A tax-supported Drug War is the complete model of the totalitarian state.

36 thoughts on “America, here’s your War on Drugs: A felony drug arrest in Ohio for NOT possessing or trafficking drugs

  1. Why would anyone in Ohio buy a used car if there is the possibility of a secret compartment concealing airspace and a felony charge?

    • Even if you live out of state and are just passing through Ohio in a car that you bought used there is risk.

      How would you prove that you did not know that the used car had a secret compartment installed before you bought it?

    • Cit

      I guess the question is, then, why would anyone buy a used car on Ohio since the presence of a secrey comparent is…um…a secret?

        • Wow! Thanks, Cit, if I ever find myself looking for a used Honda CRV for some reason I can’t right now imagine, I’ll be sure to check for the table. :)

          I suppose leaving the spare tire out & thereby leaving a large space is pretty suspicious too, huh?

    • What about legit uses for a concealed space? There are plenty of things I might want to hide that do not involve drugs.

      Too bad. concealed space = intent to hide drugs – period.

      You must think this is the USA or something. Think again.

  2. “The law says it’s only a crime if the hidden compartment is added with the “intent” to conceal drugs, but it also outlaws anybody who has been convicted of felony aggravated drug trafficking laws from operating any vehicle with hidden compartments.”

    Should felons be allowed to purchase bullet-proof vests? Should prisoners be able to build tunnels and call them air shafts instead of escape routes? I would think if a non-felon were caught with one of these compartments using the current law, the burden of proof of illegal intent would be on the prosecution and would require evidence. If a felon convicted of a drug crime is caught with one of these compartments, he or she has lost the benefit of the doubt. Having said all of that, I believe our current drug laws make criminals out of people who should not be criminals, and we imprison way too many people.

    • Who are you calling a felon? Are you talking about people who have committed crimes, served their time (paid their debt to society) and are going about their lawful business or are you talking about people who are in the process of committing a felony?

      • I am talking about people who have shown from their past actions they might be given less benefit of the doubt in the future when things could go either way. I can see police questioning and maybe even charging a person who has a conviction for drugs for a secret compartment differently than when I explain, as a historically law abiding citizen, my hidden compartment is to carry my properly licensed pistol in my truck.

        I am not condoning our ridiculous war on drugs, I am just explaining my position on encounters with law enforcement who are just trying to do the job they are assigned upholding laws we may or may not agree with while dealing with the danger they face every day.

        • Walt

          What about presumption of innocence?

          If they did it once it’s easy to believe they will do it again. The burden of proof should be much lower for someone who has already committed a similar crime, drug related perhaps, so someone with a hidden compartment in their car is most likely intending to hide drugs. Is that what you wrote? We can call that “Walt’s less benefit of the doubt rule”.

          If you’re not doing anything wrong, why would you want a hidden compartment in your car, right Walt?

          Thank God for jury trials, where a person’s fate isn’t always decided by the police state.

          • Ron, I presume people innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but I don’t automatically trust people who have proven themselves untrustworthy in the past. Some things you have to earn back. I doubt if even innocent actions such as past drug dealers driving cars with secret compartments or bank robbers wearing masks entering a bank with face masks because it is cold outside to make a bank deposit are good ideas. Maybe such actions should not be illegal, but I imagine elected leaders made that law for a reason, and I am not automatically going to judge all laws bad without knowing why they were enacted.

          • Walt

            Maybe such actions should not be illegal, but I imagine elected leaders made that law for a reason, and I am not automatically going to judge all laws bad without knowing why they were enacted.

            In this case having a secret compartment in your car is illegal because it’s presumed that you want to hide drugs.

            A similar law might presume those who carry matches or lighters guilty of smoking marijuana, because they COULD use them for that purpose.

            It doesn’t matter WHY the law was enacted, or what was intended by lawmakers. it’s a bad law, period. Do you assume lawmakers are smarter than you are and better able to tell good law from bad law?

          • I assume elected lawmakers are tasked with making policy that other people have to enforce. Those people who do the enforcement will then request what they need to do the job they were given. Life’s a bitch sometimes because we don’t all get to determine policies we are paid to successfully implement.

            I could see where a trap car designed with no other purpose determined by a reasonable person except to haul illegal drugs which is then driven by someone with a drug distributing conviction that is pulled over reeking of marijuana smoke might be illegal and a good law enforcement tool.

        • “I am talking about people who have shown from their past actions they might be given less benefit of the doubt in the future when things could go either way.”

          That’s not at all vaque now is it. There is a reason why the founders of this country chose the words they did when writing the constitution. Your thinking is utterly ignorant and blind to history. It assumes that somehow, when you become a public employ, you magically transform into some kind of exhaled being. Perhaps and quick review of history in the 20th century will jog your memory.

    • Walt,

      We’re all felons. That’s the problem with the foolish logic you bring forth: well you did something bad in the past, now every action you take, it’s simply good policy to assume your up to no good, so it’s entirely awesome to assume you’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

      Thanks for the overbearing and hugely expensive government! I like working till some time in May before I get to keep the money I earn.

      • Ken, most scientific experiments use putting a set of variables together to see what happens and then determining validity and repeatability when you perform the same experiment again with the same results. Felony recidivism by convicted felons at a higher rate than the general population is a proven fact supported by evidence (and often with escalating seriousness of crime and violence).

        No, we are not all convicted felons, so we get the benefit of the doubt until the jail doors slam shut on us the first time. Whether I agree with the drug laws or not, I agree with doing the best job you can when given a job. I can see where law enforcement would request a law to take vehicles solely designed to move illegal drugs driven by convicted drug dealers off the road even if they happen to be temporarily empty on their backhaul.

      • And I agree we have people who are felons who should be not be and we are setting them up for failure, but that is a policy problem and not an implementation problem. If you are given a job you don’t agree with, you still have to do the best job you can on the performance measurements if you want to keep your job and advance. If you try really hard or maybe the boss’ son, you get to move up and formulate the new policies, which I can assure you some or many people are not going to like or agree with.

  3. The scumbags are winning folks.

    Extremely valid point: You could buy a car like this and not realize it.

    Moreover, I may want a secret compartment, to hide large sums of legitimate cash, or to hide a Playboy magazine.

    The lawyer logic continues to creep in the wrong direction.

    The scumbags are winning.

    • It is a fact of physiognomy that all humans are equipped with a secret compartment that has, in practice, been used to smuggle drugs, and even explosives. On these grounds, it would be a small extension of the ‘secret compartment’ law to make everyone a de-facto felon, and all property forfeit.

      The scumbags are winning.

  4. The 1/2 dozen results that you list as being the dubious benefits of the War for law enforcement and associated governments might have been the original intent of the War on Drugs?
    We now accept no-knock-warrants based on the flimsiest
    of evidence. The 4th amendment hardly exists . The war mainly affects the young and lower class people w/o the means of a proper defense. This is now well tolerated by the middle classes.
    Maybe the table has been set for bigger things.
    It certainly has created a wide acceptance for oppressive
    statist tactics. Will the 2nd amendment be extinguished
    with these tools?
    The money involved flowing from the criminal elements
    to those with power certainly has to be considered.
    It sometimes is hard to distinguish them.

    That pesky bill of rights!

  5. Next: No secret compartments in your home, or yard. That’s illegal too. In fact, the government will confiscate your all your belongings under civil forfeiture laws if they find a hole under the tree in your backyard….

    But bring in the opium from Afghanistan boys—-we have created the greatest narco-empire of all time there! All hail Karzai, the biggest opium drug lord and kleptocrat of all time!

  6. It’s time again for some to blame politicians, police, and public safety officials for any possible rights taken away by rampant drug felons:

    The bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Hughes (R, Columbus – District 16) was initially summarized as follows:

    “To prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle to create or add a hidden compartment, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the vehicle will be used to facilitate a crime, and to prohibit operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle has been or will be used to facilitate a crime.”

    “Summary of the version of the bill which passed out of the senate (with no floor debate) by a 30-2 margin.”

    ****

    State of Ohio

    “The Revised Code to prohibit 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, and prohibit a person who has committed a first or second degree felony violation of aggravated trafficking in drugs from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment.”

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