False Compartments in Vehicles Used for Smuggling Illegal Substances

Working to crack down on the illegal transport of drugs, guns, people and other contraband across the Commonwealth, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) today voted to approve legislation that passed through the House to specifically criminalize the possession of a false or secret compartment in a motor vehicle with the intent of committing a crime.

“This legislation is not intended to violate the rights of residents across the state. Instead, it’s another step toward protecting law enforcement officers and residents against the trafficking of illegal drugs and guns,” said Vereb. “The secret components described under this legislation are portions of a vehicle that aren’t meant for storage but for sinister purposes. They are the same compartments that have been played a huge role in the distribution of illegal drugs across our local communities.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hidden or secret compartments in motor vehicles are often used to traffic drugs and other contraband.  These false or secret compartments are often referred to as “hides,” “traps” and “clavos” and are designed to blend into the normal elements of a car.  These false or secret compartments can be built anywhere in a car, including seats, gas tanks, trunks, spare tires or dash boards.

House Bill 1521 creates a new subsection of the state law regarding possession of instruments of crime. A person could be convicted of such a crime only when there is intent to use the false compartments for illegal activity.

This bill was introduced by fellow Montgomery County Rep. Kate Harper, after the issue was raised by a local law enforcement officer who noticed he often stopped the same vehicles more than once for illegal smuggling and believed vehicles used that way should be taken away from drug and gun smugglers.

Six states have implemented false or secret compartment statutes, including Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Utah and California.  Others states, like Pennsylvania, have introduced similar legislation.

This legislation now heads over to the Senate for consideration.

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