There was a time in America when laws were meant to protect victims. But today, those in violation of some laws are the ones being victimized. Such is the case with a new Ohio law that has claimed its first victim, according to the Daily Caller. The law has banned hidden compartments in vehicles, with proponents of the law claiming that it is a way to crack down on drug trafficking. I think arresting people in possession of drugs would probably be more effective—and even that, in many cases, constitutes a victimless crime, albeit with a bit more justification than arresting people for having hidden compartments. The police in a statement also throw “innocent until proven guilty” to the wind, while trying to justify this law against concealed empty space.
“We apparently caught them between runs, so to speak, so this takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade,” said Lt. Michael Combs in a statement to local news. “The law does help us and is on our side.”
It’s a justification that rings hollow to John Whitehead, president of civil liberties group the Rutherford Institute.
“Although Norman Gurley had no drugs on his person, nor in his car, nor could it be proven that he intended to conceal drugs, he was still arrested for the ‘crime’ of having a hidden compartment in the trunk of his car,” he wrote. “This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like.”
So forget about the rights of the accused, the police already know this guy is guilty, they just caught him between runs! Good thing they have outlawed hidden compartments otherwise this known drug trafficker would have gone free. Of course in reality, the police are not always right, they can be biased (seeing real bad guys everyday can take its toll), and are not omniscient. What bothers me about this law especially is the idea that the government and law enforcement have the right to know all the contents of your vehicle. It bothers me that people are being made into criminals without any evidence that they are involved with the root of what this law is after: drug traffickers. It is like we are now guilty until proven innocent: this guy now has to prove that his empty compartment was not meant to hold drugs!
Not that the public should need to justify their car designs to the government, but there are plenty of reasons someone might want a hidden compartment, other than trafficking drugs. For instance, to keep valuables in on a road trip or while moving. What if the compartment is locked, and the owner is just trying to comply with gun laws that force people to lock up their firearms while traveling? And with the way some law enforcement acts, it is not so absurd to want to hide legal things from the very people who might be “legitimately” searching your vehicle. How about just wanting a hidden compartment for no good reason? Nope, you’re a criminal.
Where is the justification for banning secret compartments in cars? Can they also ban secret compartments in homes? Why does government and law enforcement feel like nothing should be able to be hidden from them? It is none of the government’s business why someone might want to have a hidden compartment on or in any of their property, until there is enough evidence of some wrongdoing to produce a warrant. Having the ability to hide something is not evidence of wrongdoing, just as having the ability to kill is not evidence of murder, and having a knit cap that covers your face is not evidence of a stick-up.
This is akin to making grow lamps illegal because people might grow pot with them, never mind the people who want fresh herbs all year round. As I try to think of another comparison, I’m realizing that it is so hard to compare this to other crimes, because most crimes besides drugs actually involve a victim, the way crimes were intended to be. That is also what makes this law that much more ridiculous, as we move deviations away from the “crime” to criminalize activity that could be related to, but has nothing to do with the crime. Why not also ban pockets, and make everyone carry things in clear plastic baggies hanging from their belts, that way cops will never have to perform an illegal search again!
Its laws like these that should energize us to participate in the next election, early on. By early on I mean, there should be hotly contested primaries to figure out which idiot politicians—I’m talking to you Ohioan’s, but also to the residents of other states with control freak legislators—are responsible for laws which do not make the public safer, and only waste resources by landing innocent people in hot water.
So now some guy in Ohio is facing charges for a hidden compartment that the cop said smelled like weed. Well it doesn’t matter if he did or did not traffic drugs in that compartment before, he was not committing any crime when his car was searched, apart from speeding. This shouldn’t make you feel safer, it should make you feel like a criminal waiting to be caught. We need to take a stand that crimes should require victims, otherwise it is only a matter of time until we are all criminals, and it will be up to the discretion of the government as to who goes to jail, and who is free to walk around.