A bill halfway through the Pennsylvania statehouse aims to get tough with anyone, including truck drivers, who are believed to be involved in drug trafficking.
The House voted 114-83 this week to make it a crime to possess a vehicle with concealed compartments used for smuggling. It now heads to the Senate.
Specifically, HB1521 would create a provision in state law covering “possession of instruments of crime.” Convictions of such crimes could result when there is intent to use the false, or secret, compartments for illegal activity.
Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, said the rule is needed to help police that often stop the same vehicles multiple times for alleged smuggling.
“False compartments in cars and trucks are often used along I-95 to transport illegal drugs, guns and even people from Florida to New York,” Harper recently stated. “And they are used repeatedly, so the bill gives the district attorney the ability to have a vehicle used this way forfeited.”
Opponents say the change is unnecessary and could lead to unreasonable police searches of innocent travelers.
Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, challenges that view.
“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,” Vereb stated.
Vereb notes that at least five states have implemented similar rules, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois and Utah. A similar pursuit in Ohio is on the governor’s desk.
As is the case with the Pennsylvania bill, Ohio’s version would affect only compartments added after a vehicle leaves the factory.
A protection is included for law-abiding truckers who build aftermarket-installed compartments. An exemption would pertain to “a box, safe, container or other item” added to the vehicle to secure valuables or firearms.
The protection would apply as long as drugs, or drug residue, are not present.
OOIDA officials say such hiding spots are not uncommon for over-the-road drivers. Truckers who travel for days at a time have few options to hide cash they carry as part of operating their business.
Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the story topic. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.