Thursday, May 22, 2014

Automobile 'secret compartments' may soon be unlawful in PA

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee recently unanimously approved legislation making it a crime to possess a automobile with “secret compartments.” If the bill becomes law, anyone caught with such compartments could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and have their vehicle seized by police — even if the compartments hold nothing but air, reported the Pennsylvania Independent.
A conviction would carry up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
State Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor, said law enforcement asked her to introduce the bill. Police are concerned about vehicles that pass through Pennsylvania on a well-known smuggling route between New York and Florida.
Guns, drugs and even people can be smuggled inside those secret compartments, she said.
If police happen to catch a smuggler with illicit goods, they don’t need any additional laws to arrest the suspect. But if the bill passes, law enforcement will have another way to stop the suspected smugglers — even if they aren’t carrying anything, Harper said.
“The objective is to get those cars and trucks off the road, so if you’re using the same truck to drive back and forth between Florida and New York and we catch you doing it, then we can get it off the road,” Harper said this week.
To find an example of how that law works in practice, look no further than Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the west.
Last year, Ohio made “secret compartments” illegal. The Ohio law, like the proposed bill in Pennsylvania, specifies the compartment must be “used or intended to be used” for the concealment or transportation of illegal substances.
Harper says she only wants to target those who are using the compartments for criminal behavior. The bill was amended in committee to require law enforcement to prove a compartment exists with the intent to be used for criminal activity before a vehicle can be taken.
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