Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2014
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Copyright: 2014 The Reporter
Page: A5


A recent PA Independent article focused on a bill in the state
Legislature that would outlaw "secret compartments" in motor vehicles.

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, is aimed
at cracking down on drug traffickers. A conviction could result in
vehicle forfeiture and up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine -
even if the compartment is empty.

Hey, we're all for fighting drug smuggling - particularly the scourge
of heroin.

But how can we arrest and fine or imprison people for having empty
spaces in their cars?

Broadly speaking, pretty much any space created inside a vehicle
that's not visible by looking in a window could be construed as a
"secret compartment" for smuggling.

The bill says the compartments must be specifically created (not part
of the original design), and they must be intended for smuggling
contraband, not for holding valuables or other legal items.

But how could such intent be definitively determined?

No doubt this legislation is well-intentioned, but it brings with it
far too many potential civil rights and due process problems.

It almost seems Orwellian to pass a law that would allow police to
arrest people for not smuggling drugs if they simply have a
compartment where they could.

What's next, outlawing pockets in clothing where people could carry
drugs or weapons - even if they aren't actually carrying any?
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt