Pennsylvania bill targets certain hidden vehicle compartments

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/13/2013

Pennsylvania state lawmakers will return to work in a few weeks. One issue that could come up for consideration would get tough with anyone, including truck drivers, who are believed to be involved in drug trafficking.

A bill in the House Judiciary Committee would make it a crime to possess a vehicle with concealed compartments used for smuggling. It could get attention once lawmakers return from their summer recess on Sept. 23.

Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, said that under existing Pennsylvania law it’s not a crime to possess, own or design a vehicle with concealed compartments.

She wrote in a memo to lawmakers that she would like to change the rule because “these compartments are used to avoid compliance with multiple state laws including drug smuggling.”

Harper’s bill – HB32 – would create a provision in state law authorizing convictions when there is intent to use the false, or secret, compartments for illegal activity. Violators would face jail time and loss of vehicle.

Incidents involving a large truck are also covered. Specifically, the bill clarifies that carriers or truck owners would not lose their vehicle if they are unaware of the driver’s illegal activity.

Opponents say the change is unnecessary and could lead to unreasonable police searches of innocent travelers.

Harper’s bill would only affect compartments added after a vehicle leaves the factory.

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 and other valuables they carry as part of operating their business.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

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