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Driver Arrested In Ohio For Secret Car Compartment Full of Nothing

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the compartment-actually-intended-for-dead-bodies dept.

Privacy 670

schwit1 writes about the hazards of driving through Ohio in a car with a secret compartment in the trunk. From the article: "Norman Gurley, 30, is facing drug-related charges in Lorain County, Ohio, despite the fact that state troopers did not actually find any drugs in his possession. Ohio passed a law in 2012 making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a secret compartment with the 'intent' of using it to conceal drugs for trafficking." This is the first person arrested under the strange law.

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670 comments

Not the only state with this law (5, Insightful)

EvilSS (557649) | about 5 months ago | (#45521429)

I know Florida has had a law on the books like this for a while and I'm sure other states do as well. I get why they think they need it but it's a serious abuse of our individual rights as it essentially makes it so you are assumed guilty.

Re:Not the only state with this law (5, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 5 months ago | (#45521491)

If it keeps us safe from terrorists, drugs, child molesters, or other Bad Things, anything is okay. Sacrifice all of your freedoms to stop the Bad Things and just be thankful you're living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Re:Not the only state with this law (5, Interesting)

flyneye (84093) | about 5 months ago | (#45521633)

That's probably the mindset of the people in my hometown when they set up local statutes, (still on the books today, but unenforced). I am from the Middle of Nowhere. In the Middle of Nowhere it is illegal for; a black person to ride a horse through town, to be out after dark unescorted or to shout in public places.
I'm sure it means the same thing.

Re:Not the only state with this law (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 5 months ago | (#45521645)

If it keeps us safe from terrorists, drugs, child molesters, or other Bad Things, anything is okay. Sacrifice all of your freedoms to stop the Bad Things and just be thankful you're living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Unfortunately, I like to keep all my freedoms in a secret compartment in my car - damn.

Re:Not the only state with this law (4, Funny)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 5 months ago | (#45521823)

Seriously, if I had a secret compartment in my car, I would keep a copy of the King James Bible, a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and a registered handgun in there.

Re:Not the only state with this law (5, Informative)

mattie_p (2512046) | about 5 months ago | (#45521909)

Make sure you have a "carry concealed" permit for the pistol, otherwise you might otherwise face charges anyway.

Re:Not the only state with this law (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521959)

Seriously, if I had a secret compartment in my car, I would keep a copy of the King James Bible, a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and a registered handgun in there.

I do the same with my asshole when flying to the states, except of course for the registered handgun.

Re:Not the only state with this law (5, Informative)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 5 months ago | (#45521993)

Seriously, if I had a secret compartment in my car, I would keep a copy of the King James Bible, a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and a registered handgun in there.

[sarc]
Terrorist!

Those are far, far worse than illegal drugs!

Carrying a copy of the US Constitution, according to the US government, is an indicator of someone possibly being a domestic terrorist, as is anyone who is a military vet, or a Christian, or a member of the TEA Party, or who talks about making the world a better place.

Enjoy your stay at GITMO.
[/sarc]

Strat

Re:Not the only state with this law (5, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 5 months ago | (#45521919)

I used to work a convenience store back in college days. Once a day the supervisor would come by and pick up the receipts. The money was enough to make robbery tempting, but not enough to justify a Brinks service. His car had a small key safe incorporated into the bodywork, welded to the frame, and hidden by a false panel. It was big enough to hold the receipts for all the stores under his control, and was hidden cleverly enough to make discovery unlikely if the car was broken into, and perhaps even if the car was stolen. It's interesting to me that such a law would make this legitimate use of hidden compartments illegal.

How did they prove intent? (4, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | about 5 months ago | (#45521445)

Or is this another one of those BS laws where they bypass due process by stating in the law that "such and such" conditions are sufficient to establish it?

Re:How did they prove intent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521489)

All the more reason NOT to update your FB with incriminating photos.

Re:How did they prove intent? (1)

msauve (701917) | about 5 months ago | (#45521539)

Beyond which, if the cops found it, how can it be a "secret" compartment?

Re: How did they prove intent? (1)

Luthair (847766) | about 5 months ago | (#45521729)

this was my thought also, if there are visible wires running to it then it's not a secret compartment, merely a compartment.

Re: How did they prove intent? (2, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | about 5 months ago | (#45521979)

Cops are specially trained, things they see can be secret, but visible without a warrant. I site prior rulings, notjcommon sense. Plain site for a cop is different than for a citizen according to the courts.

Re:How did they prove intent? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 5 months ago | (#45521797)

It's not illegal if they don't know about it... isn't that what the government has always said?

Re:How did they prove intent? (5, Insightful)

weilawei (897823) | about 5 months ago | (#45521593)

"We apparently caught them between runs, so to speak, so this takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade. The law does help us and is on our side," says Combs.

Apparently? So, you own a house, and your wife was away for a week. I'm going to slander and libel you for being an adulterer, even if I verified that you didn't have anyone in the house for a week, because you were apparently between mistresses. What a cock-up and an abuse of the legal system.

The law says it’s only a crime if the hidden compartment is added with the “intent” to conceal drugs, but it also outlaws anybody who has been convicted of felony aggravated drug trafficking laws from operating any vehicle with hidden compartments.

Can anyone find the arrest record/docket and figure out exactly how they alleged intent, or that he was formerly convicted of felony aggravated drug trafficking laws? Otherwise, this looks like a money grab to me.

As for the car itself, the Institute for Justice’s 2010 “Policing for Profit” report calculated that law enforcement officials in the state have collected more than $80 million in shared proceeds from asset forfeiture funds. Oh, and the hidden compartment law exempts vehicles being operated by law enforcement officers, so if state troopers can come up with an excuse to use the ride they just grabbed, they may be able to keep it for themselves.

Re:How did they prove intent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521609)

It's guilty until proven innocent in the United States of Ass-backwards

Re:How did they prove intent? (2)

smhsmh (1139709) | about 5 months ago | (#45521649)

They haven't proven intent. (And I hope they cannot.) The driver has only been arrested and charged, not convicted.

Re:How did they prove intent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521923)

Only a matter of time. Guilty until proven lawyer.

Re:How did they prove intent? (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 5 months ago | (#45521885)

From the original article (but not any of the ones discussing it, of course):

"Troopers noticed an overwhelming smell of raw marijuana which gave them probable cause to search the car."

I love how people pick and choose their "facts" on these "issues".

The police pulled a guy over, smelled pot, searched his car, and found a hidden compartment. Not necessarily an open and shut case, but not "absurd" like some describe it.

Will be interesting if they do find traces of drugs in the compartment

Re:How did they prove intent? (5, Informative)

weilawei (897823) | about 5 months ago | (#45521949)

And in states like MA, this sort of "overwhelming smell of marijuana" (which cannot later be verified if it was a lie), is NOT probable cause, for the exact reason that police often lie. I have personally had my ripped apart for a police officer claiming I had marijauana (which I did not). I was let go after an illegal search and detention of myself and my passenger, and given a ticket for failing to use my turn signal (while I was going straight, not changing lanes). The cost of a lawyer was simply too high (and I did consult multiple lawyers) to purpose prosection.

Re:How did they prove intent? (4, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 5 months ago | (#45521903)

No, this is an example of a bad Slashdot summary filled with hyperbole. Intent is only mentioned in the law where it relates to building or installing the compartment. These aren't simple boxes hidden under a panel. They're complicated electronic and/or hydrolic devices that require multiple steps to open (turn the wheel all the way to the left, unlock the right side door, recline the seat back and then turn the wipers on once, all in proper sequence). That part of the law was meant to go after the people behind the devices.

This guy would have been picked up based on the sections that forbid him as a prior felon (not clear if he is or not) or if they detected drug residue in the compartment (which the law specifically mentions as a condition for violation). So if he has a clean drug record, no link to building or installing the compartment, and there was no drug residue in the hidden compartment, then his lawyer should have a pretty easy case for defense.

Re:How did they prove intent? (4, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 5 months ago | (#45521975)

then his lawyer should have a pretty easy case for defense

A few years wondering whether you're going up the river (when did the right to a speedy trial become a joke?), the choice between rolling the dice on a trial and accepting a plea bargain even if you did nothing, a few tens of thousands in legal fees, and you're off Scot free. What a reasonable application of an utterly absurd law.

Strange indeed (5, Interesting)

reboot246 (623534) | about 5 months ago | (#45521449)

Does this law apply if you buy a used car and you don't even know about the hidden compartment? Surely this can't be Constitutional.

Re:Strange indeed (2)

EvilSS (557649) | about 5 months ago | (#45521465)

No, as long as you can prove it was there when you bought the car and you knew nothing of it. Good luck with that.

Re:Strange indeed (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 5 months ago | (#45521917)

I think Thomas Jefferson would shoot a legislator in the chest with a musket if he were here to see how modern police, lawyers, legislators, judges, and presidents are "interpreting" The US Constitution.

But above it all, the American public, who for some goddamn reason, simply vote away liberty after liberty. Either in exchange for an Obamaphone,religeous theology in public schools, increased profits, or to protect their safe and liesurly lives... it seems that almost NO ONE is interesting saying no more.

Oh... sure you've got the Libretarians. But they've got so many people who confuse the Enlightenmen ideals of life, liberty, property and social contract with being a douchy loudmouth piece of shit who's only concern is getting high that they fairly well marginalize theselves.

Re:Strange indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521947)

Yes it does. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the Law.

Easy day in court (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 5 months ago | (#45521461)

> a secret compartment with the 'intent' of using it to conceal drugs for trafficking

Your honor, I swear this was designed for my human trafficking only...

(From here, I can hear lots of of Ohioans happy that their porn was dematerialized...)

Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (5, Insightful)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about 5 months ago | (#45521463)

How do the LEOs know what someone's intention is? I could argue it is to store sensitive work material or items sought after by thieves. What is wrong with putting drugs in there? I have a prescription for Oxycodone before. There are plenty of junkies that would love to get their hands on that. So does this mean police can arrest someone because they think they might have intentions of doing something illegal? Are they going to compensate people for their time and legal fees for arrest based on nothing more than speculation? This is insane. I will admit I didn't RTFA.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 5 months ago | (#45521561)

"intent to distribute" has been in the drug laws for a long time.

"Hate crimes" are pretty close to thought crimes as well. I mean, an assault is an assault and should be punished as one, right? No, they carry extra penalties if the perpetrator was thinking the wrong thoughts while perpetrating the assault.

Child porn is also practically a thought crime now that they've expanded the law to cover fictional cartoons and drawings.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (1)

Eskarel (565631) | about 5 months ago | (#45521595)

Intent to distribute isn't actually a BS law. It's usually based either on having an excessive amount of the drug(more than you would have for personal use) or having the drug packaged in way indicating an intent to distribute. It's not really a stretch to say that if you've got 50 dime bags you probably intent to deal.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 5 months ago | (#45521853)

Define excessive. some people would find a pound of cannabis excessive, even though its not an abnormally large amount of plant material at all. You could easily go through pounds of it making extracts and such.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (1)

tftp (111690) | about 5 months ago | (#45521653)

"intent to distribute" has been in the drug laws for a long time.

And in this case it has to be proven, at least by circumstancial evidence - like by a recent conviction for a drug-related offense, or by presence of drugs elsewhere in the car or with the driver.

My car came with several semi-secret locations built by the manufacturer. They are to be used to store items that you don't want to be stolen if someone breaks into the car. (The car cannot be easily stolen due to RFID security and absence of wires to short.) You can keep your money there, credit cards, checkbook, jewelry (if you have it,) and other such things when you are on a road trip.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521883)

Hate crime isn't thoughtcrime, same as murder isn't thoughtcrime. The difference between manslaughter and murder is intent; the difference between hate crime and murder is the same. Disclaimer: in theory. I won't say hate crime has never been abused in practice, and I do hate it when people jump to hate crime based as soon as they hear the offender's and the victim's skin colors/orientation/etc.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (3, Interesting)

pspahn (1175617) | about 5 months ago | (#45521997)

Speaking of thought crimes, after watching the recent Jon Stewart bit about "Good Thing? Bad Thing?" I had the following train of thought...

Picture some time in the not-too-distant future. A time where cyber-neural interfaces exist. A time where Facebook has given way to some other type of massive network of "thoughts".

You could be sitting there on your patio and some type of event happens before you. Your brain starts to mull over the options. Should I do this? Should I refrain?

At the same time, that same set of options is turned into a poll. That poll is sent to the cyber-neural interface of billions of others around the world, much in the same way someone would post something to Facebook looking for feedback. Instantly, the billions of others will respond to those options sub-consciously and the results fed back to you.

No longer will it be necessary to learn the difference between right and wrong or to otherwise obligate yourself into making moral choices. Those choices will be provided to you in real time by the collective morality every time someone clicks the neural "Like" button for your thought.

(I admit I was drinking when this idea came to me, but that shouldn't detract from its disturbing nature)

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about 5 months ago | (#45521675)

Law enforcement doesn't know, they only suspect. Hopefully they have a reasonable suspicion (and hopefully a judge holds them to it).

When you go to trial, the judge doesn't know your intent, either. He's there to decide on matters of law. Your intent is a matter of fact. The job of deciding it is up to the people in the jury box.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 months ago | (#45521699)

Usually in criminal trials they need to have some evidence that you intended to use it for (whatever purpose). In this case, such evidence may be that he had an address of a known drug dealer typed into his GPS, or he had correspondence with someone indicating his desire to use the compartment for drugs, or he said that was the purpose to an undercover policeman, or even possibly that he is a known drug dealer.

If there is no evidence that his intent was to use it for drugs and he has a reasonable alternative explanation for his compartment, then it will be difficult to convict him on this charge, although it is still up to the jury. (IANAL YMMV more info here [wikipedia.org]).

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (5, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 5 months ago | (#45521759)

The summary is somewhat misleading. Per the linked law:

To enact section 2923.241 of the Revised Code to prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle to create or add a hidden compartment with the intent to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance, prohibit operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment with knowledge that the hidden compartment is used or intended to be used to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance, and prohibit a person who has committed a first or second degree felony violation of aggravated trafficking in drugs from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment.

His intent is irrelevant due to his prior felony conviction. That is what has him in trouble. I imagine the 'intent' clause is mostly for people found with actual drugs or weapons stored in the compartment, in which case their intent is obvious.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (2)

tibit (1762298) | about 5 months ago | (#45521811)

This is the insightful post in this whole mess. All that we really needed. No other posts needed. Seriously.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (5, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | about 5 months ago | (#45521889)

and prohibit a person who has committed a first or second degree felony violation of aggravated trafficking in drugs from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment.

So the jury get to hear about prior convictions before deciding on the accused person's guilt. Neat!

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (2)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 5 months ago | (#45521777)

How do the LEOs know what someone's intention is?

They only need probable cause, a threshold which can be less than 50-50 according to a 1983 Supreme Court decision.

Re:Mind Readers? Thought Crime? (0)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 5 months ago | (#45521851)

How do the LEOs know what someone's intention is?

Because, contrary to the Slashdot groupthink, most experienced LEOs aren't idiots.

*Proving* intent is not easy, nor should it be, but day in and day out LEOs encounter situations where they know exactly what is going on - When it comes to law enforcement Occam's Razor wins every time.

You're allowed to have secret compartments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521467)

It is in the constitution.

Re:You're allowed to have secret compartments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521671)

You're allowed to have secret compartments

It is in the constitution.

I was born with one. My sister has two.

Re:You're allowed to have secret compartments (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521755)

Yeah well your sister has been showing them off on the internet. They aren't so secret anymore.
That dirty fucking whore.

P.S. what's her number?

Re:You're allowed to have secret compartments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521929)

(No) thanks to Roe v. Wade, every uterus has been removed from the jurisdiction of state laws. Think of it as a piece of Washington DC beyond every cervix.

Full of Nothing (1)

fekmist (2857907) | about 5 months ago | (#45521473)

So he had vaccum sealed a compartment in his car? Could be dangerous...

Re:Full of Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521723)

So he had vaccum sealed a compartment in his car? Could be dangerous...

You don't know how power brakes work, do you?

What a joke.... (3, Interesting)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | about 5 months ago | (#45521475)

Any lawyer worth half a shit will get this tossed out. It's a useless law for it's intended purpose, it's designed as a plea bargain tool. If they decide to use this particular case to test the legality of this law, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

Tire compartment (4, Interesting)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | about 5 months ago | (#45521479)

I have a hidden compartment in my car it, came that way from the Factory, it were I store my spare tire and jack. So under this crazy law, would that be illegal too?

Re:Tire compartment (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 5 months ago | (#45521511)

No because it specified "making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a secret compartment".

Re:Tire compartment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521661)

What is the definition of the "secret compartment" according to the law? It can be broad enough that simple shoe box can be defined as a secret compartment.

Re:Tire compartment (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 5 months ago | (#45521677)

It's only a felony to alter the vehicle if you prove intent to (summarizing here) traffick or conceal illegal drugs.

Re:Tire compartment (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 5 months ago | (#45521803)

And so far they don't have a conviction, just an arrest.

I can't imagine how they hope to prove intent, even if the driver has a criminal record, when nothing was found other than the compartment itself.

Re:Tire compartment (2)

tftp (111690) | about 5 months ago | (#45521705)

As I said elsewhere, my car already has those, made at the factory and described in the user's manual. But what if your car doesn't, and you would like to store money or jewelry while on a road trip? That can't be illegal. Your car will be parked at motels, and that exposes you to the risk of losing your valuables.

Another question is in the word "secret." What does it mean? How secret is secret? What is the threshold of work to classify the compartment as secret? Does a backseat organizer qualify? Does a bag under the seat qualify? Does a $100 shoved under the floor mat qualify?

Re:Tire compartment (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 5 months ago | (#45521873)

well, if you put a subwoofer in there and are listening to gangsta rap then of course you had an intent to stash it full of weed hence you're guilty......

stupid law.

"we catched them between runs" well wait a week then.. if you're so sure he was doing drug runs you would think you'd have some evidence of that and could charge him with trafficking and not with precrime...

Re:Tire compartment (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 5 months ago | (#45521963)

I read an article on guys who make these compartments a while back (almost always for drug dealers). They can be really well hidden and complex to open (e.g. you have to hit several locks/switches in sequence or all at once, and then a secret hatch in the door opens, or something like that). And TFA specifically said it was a hidden compartment wired up with an electronic lock.

So, this is a real thing, it's a REALLY common way to transport drugs and cash, and no, obviously your spare tire compartment isn't illegal

Actually, here's an interesting article on it http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/03/alfred-anaya/all/ [wired.com]

How much weed ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#45521499)

... can the Ohio legislators fit into that empty compartment between their ears?

Seriously: "With the 'intent'?" Does Ohio have a concealed carry law? Just stuff a gun or a spare clip in there. Your 'intent' was to keep your weapon safe. Think of the children.

Here's the FBI page on prosecuting such things: (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521517)

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/October-2010/investigating-and-prosecuting-hidden-compartment-cases

One more thing...we call them the Fibbies for a reason.

civil forfeiture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521531)

Next step: seize all his assets now that he's a "drug trafficker"!

Re:civil forfeiture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521907)

The county name sounds familiar, but I could be mistaken. There was a comment on slashdot not too long ago, linking to a story about a particular town that would arrest people passing through, and use drug charges to blackmail money from them. The story focused on one vacationing family. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

Tools (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 5 months ago | (#45521555)

Such things follow a long established general pattern where possession of the tools needed to commit a certain type of crime plus intent to use them illegally is sufficient to obtain a criminal conviction.

The classic example of this is the possession of burglary tools - things like crowbars, lock picks etc.

The Ohio law reads:

prohibit designing, building, constructing, fabricating, modifying, or altering a vehicle to create or add a hidden compartment with the intent to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance

So really there is little new here.

Re:Tools (2)

weilawei (897823) | about 5 months ago | (#45521647)

Again, you need to prove intent. And in some states, the possession of "burglarious instruments" is only restricted if used in the commission of a crime. For instance, in my state, Massachusetts, there aren't any laws restricting me from carrying lockpicks, slim jims--you name it, I have it. In fact, a manufacturer of such tools is locally owned and operated. I also took a course from a third-party locksmithing school, and they happily sent me materials without any background checks, but I don't need certification to possess and carry these things.

Before someone gets on their high horse and bitches, I don't generally carry these tools around, and certainly not to break into anything. I am a member of the Locksport community, and a compartment like this in my car would be generally useful to keep nosy people from stealing my tools (not the first time someone has tried).

Re:Tools (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 5 months ago | (#45521899)

In this case the officers claimed a strong odor of marijuana was observed. If true it's likely they will be able to find residue, and most people would accept that as intent or evidence of past use for this illegal purpose.

I just don't see what the big deal is. It's a law that fits with other statutes of this type, and there is probably cause for further investigation.

Re:Tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521999)

I live in Massachusetts as well, and I knew many people who would carry around slim jims. I don't care how mindful you are, unless you are extremely lucky or don't own a car, you have locked or will lock your keys in your car. It only takes a moment of absent-mindedness, and then you'll be glad to have a friend with 'burglarious instruments.'

Re:Tools (1)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 5 months ago | (#45521951)

Yes but it is quite plausible to have a hidden compartment in your car for a perfectly legal reason such as hiding valuables. The problem with this law, at least how we have been presented with the facts in this case is that you need to go to court in order to clear your name. Imagine if you had to go to court to clear your name for owning a DVR just because it could be used for copyright infringement.

Encryption is next (4, Insightful)

nytes (231372) | about 5 months ago | (#45521569)

So, next up: A law that makes it a felony for using encryption to conceal evidence of terrorism.

Now they can nail you just for using encryption with your email.

Re:Encryption is next (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521915)

That law is already on the books. It is called the Homeland Security Act.

Land of the Free and .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521573)

.... home of fucking idiots.

Did the driver known ? (1)

jcdr (178250) | about 5 months ago | (#45521597)

He could just have buy the truck without any knowledge of the secret compartment existence.

Plausible deniability? (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 5 months ago | (#45521605)

If it's empty, how can they legally prove he knew it even existed? It's "hidden" right?

Absolute crock of shit, this case (3, Insightful)

Eggplant62 (120514) | about 5 months ago | (#45521629)

I don't see how they prove intent here. Empty container -- I could store guns, money, drugs, or *any other valuable item* I don't want exposed and out there for someone to heist by smashing the glass in the vehicle. I don't suppose I have a right to secure my property in any way I see fit? Intent is missing here and the prosecutor is going to have to stretch the truth quite a bit to prove his case.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 5 months ago | (#45521703)

In this case, they might not have to ...

TFA: "it also outlaws anybody who has been convicted of felony aggravated drug trafficking laws from operating any vehicle with hidden compartments. "

If the person arrested has a drug trafficking felony, TFA seems to indicate just operating a vehicle with hidden compartments is enough.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521737)

Prove intent? You must be living in a country that protects the rights of its citizens. That would not be the United States of America.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521763)

They don't have to prove intent. Intent is presumed for any device that has "no lawful purpose."

The construction is as follows:

1) Driving is a privilege not a right, and so you must agree to all of the conditions the State sets forth, including agreement not to alter your vehicle to contain devices the State doesn't want you to have in your car

2) You do not actually own your car. You have a certificate of Title from the State that grants you exclusive privilege to that property, in exchange for an annual fee paid to the state. But, it is not, at the end of the day, "your" car to do with what you please.

3) Because it is not your car, and you have agreed to all of the state conditions for the privilege of driving, there can be no lawful purpose to having a secret compartment in your car.

Therefore, because there is no lawful purpose, they can legally presume criminal intent.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 5 months ago | (#45521875)

You do not actually own your car. You have a certificate of Title from the State that grants you exclusive privilege to that property, in exchange for an annual fee paid to the state. But, it is not, at the end of the day, "your" car to do with what you please.

What a load of bullshit. You don't pay recurring fees to maintain a title to a car, you dumbass. You only pay them to keep the car registered, and thus legal to drive. If you merely wish to own it without driving it, you pay the title fees once at the acquisition of the title and you're done. I hope you don't own a car in the U.S., because if you're confused about this, I wonder what else you're confused about. I hope you know what side of the road one drives on.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (1)

mattie_p (2512046) | about 5 months ago | (#45521967)

Unless you move, in which case you pay a title fee each time you move to a different state. I know this, as I've moved frequently for my job and always, always, always have to pay new title fees (and new title taxes, even if I've paid those taxes in the state, yeah).

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521961)

Behold some interesting bathroom reading

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1772042
Oklahoma City University Law Review
Summer, 2005
30 Okla. City U.L. Rev. 245
LENGTH: 12953 words
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile,
1890-1950
NAME: Roger I. Roots, J.D., Ph.D.*
BIO:
* Dr. Roger Isaac Roots, J.D., Ph.D. is an attorney and sociologist in private practice.
He can be reached at rogerroots@msn.com.
SUMMARY: ... Driving an automobile is a privilege, not a right, according to the prevailing laws of
every jurisdiction of the United States. ... " "A traveler on foot [had] the same right to
the use of any public highway [as the operator of] an automobile or any other vehicle. ... Chicago was one of the first large cities to require motor vehicle registration, and
the Chicago Automobile Club voiced a strong protest against the requirement that
numbered license plates be displayed, even though the city initially allowed motorists
to select their own numbers and charged a fee of only $ 3 ... . Farson, however, never
had the complete support of his club, and by 1904 he was representing only a small
minority of the members. ... The State Legislature affirmatively provided that "any
person owning or operating an automobile or motor vehicle ... [except for hire] shall
not be required to obtain any license or permit pursuant to the provisions of any local
or municipal resolution or ordinance. ... No court after 1920 found the right to travel
sufficient to strike down a driver license requirement. ... Americans living during the
turn of the twentieth century generally regarded highway travel as a fundamental
right. ...
HIGHLIGHT: Abstract
Driving an automobile is a privilege, not a right, according to the prevailing laws of
every jurisdiction of the United States. However, this was not always the case. When
automobiles were first introduced around the turn of the twentieth century, drivers
relied on common law traditions that protected the right of every person to travel
upon public roadways without a license. Courts repeatedly wrote of an individual's
"right to travel" by automobile and struck down regulations aimed at limiting the
liberties of automobile drivers on constitutional grounds. With the passage of time,
however, automobile regulators generally prevailed in legislative halls and
courtrooms. Today, the public has accepted a degree of travel regulation which would
have seemed almost tyrannical to nineteenth century Americans. This paper analyzes
this change in common law and suggests that even if most Americans are unaware of
it, the change represents a substantial loss of liberty.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1772042
TEXT:
[*245]
I. Introduction
Few historic events have brought as much change to the American landscape as the
development of the automobile. n1 Indeed, American history can easily be written in
two parts: America before the arrival of [*246] automobiles and America after
automobiles. Motorized vehicles altered everything from the demographic distribution
of American society to the ways Americans live and work to the normative balance of
home and family life. n2
Equally great are the changes the automobile brought to the American legal
landscape. The automobile entered the scene during a unique period when America's
culture of laissez-faire was being swept away by the instrumentalist lawmakers of the
Progressive Era. n3 Law was seen as a weapon with which to wage war on social
uncertainty, inequity, and insecurity. n4 The "hands-off" approach of earlier
generations was seen as a barrier to sound public policy. n5 Highway safety, like food,
drug, and workplace safety, was increasingly seen as the domain of government
policymakers. n6
Nineteenth century Americans would scarcely recognize the immense quilt of laws
which govern highway travel today. With the exception of the Civil War, nothing
before or since has so fundamentally altered America's scheme of rights and freedoms
as that of the laws now governing highway travel. Today, the vast majority of
Americans voluntarily submit to a variety of registration, identification, and licensing
schemes in order to travel by automobile. Today's laws once would have been viewed
as unconstitutional. The hand of the State now extends over aspects of travel in ways
which would have been impossible according to common law precedents familiar to
earlier Americans.
Prior to the nineteenth century, courts generally held the public roadways were open
to all users without regard to the travelers' methods or means of transport. Licenses
or other indicia of governmental permission were thought unnecessary or even
violative of constitutional rights. n7 But widespread disdain and fear of the automobile
led twentieth century policymakers to push aside these long-standing constitutional
barriers in order to regulate motorized driving. This new regulatory [*247] approach
was justified on the grounds that motor vehicles were too dangerous to operate
unlicensed and that traffic injuries were increasingly on the rise. n8
II. The Birth of Automobility
To understand how thoroughly the country's travel laws were reconstructed in the
automobile's wake, one must consider the immense adjustments required for
American roads to meet the demands of the motor age. Writing in the 1860s,
Harvard's future president, Charles W. Eliot, declared the entire United States had
"hardly twenty miles of good road, in the European sense." n9 America's system of
road construction and maintenance was "semimedieval" for it was paid for and
administered on a strictly local basis leaving those individuals whose property abutted
roadways to perform the necessary maintenance. n10 The transformation of the
American roadway, to accommodate the automobile, is itself an epic with many
adventures, heroes, and villains, and with something of a happy ending (from the
automobile's perspective). n11
In 1903, when the first horseless carriage crossed the United States, there was not a
single foot of paved highway absent that found in the cities. n12 More than ninety-three
percent of America's roads were just plain dirt. n13 In the summer, the roads were
deep, silty dust, and in the winter, the roads were frozen ruts of mud. n14 Spring rains
turned the roadways to muddy channels of soup and gumbo. n15 It was only a short
distance out from every town where the roads became barely navigable. Many roads
were without signposts, or they were posted so poorly that strangers to the area could
take little comfort from the directions. n16 [*248] Farmers and ranchers, who were
disdainful of automobile traffic, offered little assistance to lost motorists and placed
obstacles - figuratively, politically, and literally - in the way of car drivers. n17 Some
automobile haters spread tacks and shards of broken glass upon intersections and
even altered landmarks to foil the travels of motor tourists. n18
Rural roads were a commons, if not a no-mans-land, unpatrolled by any government
authority. n19 Local government's maintenance of road conditions was scant, and
obstructions lasted days or even weeks before travelers removed them. n20 It has been
noted that public snow removal was unheard of anywhere around Chicago or its
suburbs until the winter of 1924-1925. n21 The earliest motorists were true pioneers
who drove as much for adventure as for any utilitarian purpose. Necessity dictated
that motorists dabble in mechanics, metalworking, rubber and glass repair, and other
arts. n22 Automobile tourists carried extensive tools and survival kits, including tow
ropes, pumps, tire-patching equipment, winches, compasses, tire chains, and
hatchets. n23 Even short trips required tents, sleeping bags, and other survival gear in
case of foul weather, unpredicted breakdowns, or impassable roads. n24 The first
automobilists to cross the continent carried an armory of pistols, a shotgun, and a rifle
to ward off "road agents." n25 Resourceful drivers learned to substitute any suitable
fuel when gasoline proved scarce; Benzine was used on one stretch of the first
transcontinental journey. n26
III. The Right to Travel
During the Gilded Age, while travel over America's patchwork system of roads was
often difficult due to road conditions, it was relatively free from regulations. n27
American roads of the period were routes not only for horses and carriages, but for
bicycles, mule or oxen [*249] teams, and large amounts of pedestrian traffic. "A
public highway ... [was] open in all its length and breadth to the reasonable, common,
and equal use of the people, on foot or in vehicles." n28 "A traveler on foot [had] the
same right to the use of any public highway [as the operator of] an automobile or any
other vehicle." n29 The very term "highway" meant a "public way open and free to
anyone who had occasion to pass along it on foot" or by vehicle, and many courts, up
until quite recent decades, so stated. n30
The rule of open travel on the roads was viewed as superior to freedom of speech,
freedom of religion, and freedom of press throughout the late 1800s. n31 Eighteenth
and nineteenth century judges upheld the practices of slavery, wife-beating, flogging,
and child-beatings in the public schools, but strictly prohibited the infringement of the
right to travel. n32 In fact, the right to travel without undue restriction was the very
first right recognized as a fundamental liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution. n33
The right to travel meant travel by virtually any means available, or at least any
ordinary or usual means. n34 Carriages, horses, and every type of cart that could be
pushed, pulled, or dragged across the landscape by the muscle of human or animal
qualified. n35 When bicycles came into widespread use in the 1880s, courts often struck
down regional ordinances aimed at curbing the use of the machines. n36 There seemed
to be no good reason to treat the first pioneers of travel by horseless carriages any
differently. n37 In 1907, the Supreme Court of Iowa, like many state courts, opted to
place automobile travel within the same [*250] category as travel by horse,
carriages, and other vehicles. n38 "The right to make use of an automobile as a vehicle
of travel," wrote Justice Ladd, "is no longer an open question." n39 "The owners thereof
have the same rights in the roads and streets as the drivers of horses or those riding
a bicycle or traveling by some other vehicle." n40 "There can be no question of the right
of automobile owners to occupy and use the public streets of cities, or highways in the
rural districts," stated the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1910, "[yet] they have no
exclusive right." n41
An exhaustive search of cases, statutes, and history regarding early traffic regulations
has yielded no evidence of any wagon or carriage licenses, outside the business
context, anywhere in the United States during the first 150 years of America's
constitutional existence. n42 Travel and traffic accidents were regulated by common law
tort principles rather than armed patrols. n43 Not a single license law excluded any
nonmerchant from traveling on the roads with wagons, horses, or buggies of any kind.
Indeed, courts suggested that no such requirement could be upheld even if it were to
exist. n44
One early case clearly enunciating the right to travel by the vehicle of one's choice
(including by automobile) was Swift v. City of Topeka, n45 an 1890 Kansas Supreme
Court decision. Swift involved a bicyclist who was arrested and fined one dollar for
pedaling across a Topeka bridge in violation of a city ordinance. n46 The ordinance
forbade any person "to ride on any bicycle or velocipede upon any sidewalk in the city
of Topeka or across the Kansas river bridge." n47 The ordinance represented bold-faced
discrimination against bicyclists, because horse-driven vehicles and wagons were
allowed to cross the bridge without legal [*251] impediment. W.E. Swift argued he
had a right to cross the bridge using the vehicle of his choice without governmental
interference. n48 The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the Topeka ordinance and
reversed Swift's conviction, declaring that
[each] citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he
desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by
bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all
those requirements that are known as the "law of the road." n49
This right to drive was "so well established and so universally recognized in this
country," wrote the court, "that it has become a part of the alphabet of fundamental
rights of the citizen." n50
When the City of Chicago enacted an ordinance requiring car drivers to be examined
and licensed by a board of examiners, the Illinois Court of Appeals struck down the
ordinance as unconstitutional. n51 The right of a car driver "to use the streets is
undoubted," wrote the court, "subject to [the limitation that he honor the rights of
other users,] his right cannot be regulated by an ordinance." n52 "The fact that an
automobile is a comparatively new vehicle is beside the question. The use of the
streets must be extended to meet the modern means of locomotion." n53
The law of free travel was so well-settled that it was recognized in the "constitutional
law" entry of American Jurisprudence as recently as 1931:
Personal liberty largely consists of the right of locomotion - to go where and when one
pleases - only so far restrained as the rights of others may make it necessary for the
welfare of all other citizens. The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways
and to transport his property thereon, by horsedrawn carriage, wagon, or automobile,
is not a mere privilege which [*252] may be permitted or prohibited at will, but a
common right which he has under his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. Under this constitutional guarantee one may, therefore, under normal
conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and
while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor
disturbing another's rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe
conduct. n54
Courts that spoke of the right to travel by automobile as "part of the alphabet of
fundamental rights of the citizen" n55 were invoking the highest legal protection
available under the U.S. Constitution. Although it has never been completely clear
when a particular right becomes recognized as a prohibitive obstacle to government
action, a small number of the most important individual rights - so-called fundamental
rights - have been treated with the utmost sanctity. n56 Among these rights are
freedom of speech, the right to privacy in contraceptive matters, and the right to
marry. n57 These rights are considered outside the arena of legislative decision-making
except where preempted by a compelling governmental necessity. n58 The right to
travel by the vehicle of one's choice was thought to be as important as any personal
freedom recognized under the Constitution. n59
Even the U.S. Supreme Court suggested, if only in dicta, that driving a motor car
without undue government interference was a constitutional right. n60 United States
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in Buck v. Kuykendall that "the right to
travel interstate by auto vehicle upon the public highways may be a privilege or
immunity of citizens of the Unites States. A citizen may have, under the Fourteenth
Amendment, the right to travel and transport his property upon them by auto
vehicle." n61
[*253] Lack of regulatory impositions did not mean an absence of legal constraints.
Tort law, rather than criminal law, dictated the duties and limitations of auto users.
Both car drivers and other travelers were "required to use such reasonable care,
circumspection, prudence, and discretion as the circumstances required." n62 The use
of warning signals, bells, or horns was in some respects required by understood
practice as early as 1907. n63 Juries in civil cases, rather than lawmakers, were the
final arbiters in determining what driving was reasonable; tort rules and customary
practices governed speed, lane position, passing and meetings between cars, horses,
and horse teams. n64 "The more dangerous the character of the vehicle or machine,
and the greater its liability to do injury to others, the greater the degree of care and
caution required in its use and operation," wrote Justice Pennewill of the Superior
Court of Delaware. n65
As quickly as early lawmakers sought to regulate auto use, courts were ready to strike
down such regulations on constitutional grounds. n66 Chicago's South Park Board
passed an ordinance banning automobiles from the city's South Side boulevards in
June of 1899, and this ordinance was immediately challenged by Chicago's auto
owners. n67 The New York Times ("Times") pronounced the ban on automobiles to be
virtually a dead letter a week later, after the first attempted prosecution was defeated
in court. n68
That same year a New York City ordinance banning horseless carriages from Central
Park roads was challenged by a representative of the New York Automobile Club. n69
The Central Park's administrators [*254] alleged automobiles might frighten horses
and otherwise pose an annoyance. n70 The Times admonished that "the theory that
horses have some rights which automobiles are bound to respect ... is a position
impossible to maintain for any length of time." n71 In a series of editorials, the Times
predicted that "in the very near future everybody except the writers and students of
history will have forgotten that efforts were ever made to exclude self-propelled
vehicles from any public highway." n72 The Times went on to state, "it is difficult to
imagine an application more devoid of merit than that which has been made to the
Park Commission to exclude automobiles from the public parks." n73
True to the law of the road, automobilists rejoiced when the Automobile Club won a
quick and easy victory over the ordinance in the Yorkville Police Court. n74 A city
magistrate held that "as pleasure carriages are allowed on the park roads and as
automobiles are undoubtedly carriages of that description, the arrest of" a club
member for driving in Central Park was illegal. n75
Some early automobilists were relentless in insisting upon their liberties. In May of
1901, members of the Automobile Club of America in New York led by Albert Bostwick
and J. C. Church, drove through Central Park at twice the posted speed limits taunting
police to arrest them, but they were never arrested. n76 The group aimed to strike
down Central Park's speed ordinances as unfair to automobile drivers, because they
made autos travel slower than horses. n77 Authorities refused to give the Auto Club its
test case, however, stating that the purpose of the ordinance was to protect horses,
and no horses had been bothered by the speeding cars. n78
The Chicago Auto Club also challenged auto regulations for a brief period in the first
decade of the twentieth century. John Farson, president of the Chicago Auto Club, led
a lengthy but ultimately unsuccessful attack on Chicago's first registration ordinance
passed in 1903. n79 About eighty members of the Club waged the attack on the law,
[*255] and many were arrested for driving without registration before a final
decision was handed down by a Chicago court against Farson in 1905. n80 The
challenge gradually ran out of steam as arrests mounted and litigation slowly
proceeded through the courts over a period of months and years:
Chicago was one of the first large cities to require motor vehicle registration, and the
Chicago Automobile Club voiced a strong protest against the requirement that
numbered license plates be displayed, even though the city initially allowed motorists
to select their own numbers and charged a fee of only $ 3 ... . Farson, however, never
had the complete support of his club, and by 1904 he was representing only a small
minority of the members. Some of the affidavits taken in support of the city's case
were procured from prominent Chicago club members who thought the city ought to
regulate the motor vehicle. Then, during Farson's absence from a meeting on October
17, 1907, the Chicago Automobile Club voted unanimously to abandon its fight and
comply with the city numbering ordinance. Some 200 members registered their cars
the following day, and several even offered to allow the police to use their cars to help
apprehend speeders and violators of the city's numbering ordinance. n81
The automobile clubs were a formidable force in the early years of the American
automobile, but their vast diversity of members and activities kept them from putting
up unified barriers to auto regulation. n82 The clubs occasionally performed inconsistent
roles; for instance, while lobbying for greater state funding of road maintenance the
auto clubs would complain about state regulation on the roads. n83 Some automobile
clubs were dominated by auto dealers while others were the exclusive domain of the
upper classes. n84 Some clubs paid to build or maintain [*256] roadways while some
mostly sought sanctions and venues for auto racing. n85 Some clubs launched towing
services, efforts to detect traffic in stolen vehicles, and insurance plans for their
members. n86 The Automobile Club of Pittsburgh offered legal advice on thousands of
occasions, filed court challenges against regional traffic regulations, and even sued
the Borough of East McKeesport for "unnecessary arrests." n87 Most clubs simply fought
for good roads, maps, and signs while placing less emphasis on constitutional
challenges. By 1910, many regional auto clubs had merged with the American
Automobile Association ("AAA"), which became the principle spokesman for the
American motorist. n88 Court challenges of auto regulation based on constitutional
assertions became increasingly rare.
The realities of the age seemed to constantly test the mettle of those who invoked the
historic right to travel. For lawmakers of the twentieth century, the automobile and
its potential for trouble seemed to cry out for regulation. Wherever automobiles came
into use, accidents and mayhem seemed to follow in their wake. Legend holds that
when the State of Missouri first harbored four automobiles, two of them managed to
collide on a St. Louis street with such impact as to injure both drivers. n89 Former
United States Representative, Robert G. Cousins of Iowa, said in a speech published in
the Congressional Record in 1910, that the increasing omnipresence of automobile
drivers made the freedom to travel on public highways illusory for most other types of
travelers. n90
Hitherto the streets and highways have been constructed by and for the use,
convenience, and safety of all the people, not exclusively for any one class.
Suddenly, within less than half a dozen years, a mighty change has taken place. While
the people - all the people - continue to supply the toil and tax for their maintenance,
the streets and highways are to-day [*257] practically monopolized by a single
class, and that class - owners and operators of automobiles - comprises but a small
percentage of the population. Horse vehicles, the only kind that can generally be
afforded by the average citizen, are practically banished from the boulevards and
well-paved streets, and are frightened from the main highways throughout the
country. The lives of pedestrians are menaced every minute of the days and nights by
a wanton recklessness of speed, crippling and killing people at a rate that is appalling.
n91
Robert Cousins was an influential Republican in Congress from 1893 until 1909 during
the period when the automobile arrived and began its rapid takeover of American
transportation. n92 Born and raised on a farm near Tipton, Iowa, Cousins was an
eyewitness to the incredible transformation of mobility and culture. n93 His home state
of Iowa, along with neighboring Nebraska, had the highest per-capita ownership of
automobiles in the nation by the time his congressional service ended. n94 Cousins was
the keynote speaker at the 1904 Republican National Convention and one of the
nation's most respected orators. n95 His public stance against the dangers of
automobile operation must have resonated through legislative chambers with raw
appeal. "The operation of automobiles on the streets," said Cousins, "is practically the
same as though so many railway locomotives were turned loose on the thoroughfares,
except that in the operation of locomotives the engineer must be an experienced
driver [and] must know the construction of his engine." n96
The ninety and nine of every hundred people of this and other countries will not
abandon the public thoroughfares to a single class comprising less than 1 per cent of
all the population. If a selfish, reckless, and indulgent class must run faster than the
majority of [*258] mankind, let them build their speedways and kill each other if
they will, but they must not be permitted to continue to terrorize and kill the people
whose toil and tax maintain the public thoroughfares. n97
Representative Cousins stated that fines and arrests did little to deter speeders, who
simply paid the fines and continued speeding. n98 "Horrible and gruesome incidents are
of almost daily occurrence," and the recklessness of automobilists "has bespattered
boulevards with blood." n99 Representative Cousins went on to state,
it should be said in justice to many automobilists, that after running over people they
have stopped and rendered quick assistance and have furnished flowers for the
funerals of their victims, although in a great many instances it appears that the
greatest utility which high-speed gearing accomplishes is getting away from the
corpse before the machine numbers can be detected. n100
"Why should this daily tribute of human life be paid to the rollicking, wanton greed of
a few - an infinitesimal number of our population?" asked the former congressman. n101
"Why should the streets and highways of the world be spattered with the blood of
men and women who provide the labor and the money to construct and maintain the
public thoroughfares?" n102
Cousins may have said most eloquently what growing numbers of Americans were
thinking in the first decades of the twentieth century. As the Farson case, described
above, illustrates, even some auto club members were inclined to trade in their rights
for assurances of safety and driving predictability. Farson's four year struggle to
invalidate Chicago's registration ordinance won him few supporters and even fewer
victories. The argument that driving unregistered was a constitutional right, although
successful in some localities in the earliest years, became a losing argument
everywhere from 1905 onward. Such regulation [*259] simply seemed reasonable to
the vast majority of the population. As Flink writes, "patterns of protest to local
registration laws [were] invariably based on grounds that now seem absurd." n103
IV. The Beginning of The Driver's License
The idea that American citizens should need permission to travel upon the public
roads by motorized vehicles probably did not come to the minds of many people in the
first years of automobile travel. Instead, the automobiles themselves seemed to be
the initial target of would-be regulators. The first appearances of steam-driven auto
carriages in the 1800s prompted several municipalities to ban such noisy
monstrosities outright. n104 Early American automobile laws followed the pattern of
targeting the vehicles themselves for regulation first while looking to their operators
last. In almost every state, auto registration laws were enacted several years before
auto driver license laws. As early as 1901, New York became the first state to require
motor vehicles be affixed with registration numbers, n105 yet the state did not require
registration of operators until several years later. The Rhode Island General Assembly
enacted an auto registration law in 1904, but rejected language in the same bill that
would have required drivers to be licensed to drive. n106 The text of New York's first
automobile laws indicates that licensing was considered and rejected by the drafters.
The State Legislature affirmatively provided that "any person owning or operating an
automobile or motor vehicle ... [except for hire] shall not be required to obtain any
license or permit pursuant to the provisions of any local or municipal resolution or
ordinance." n107
Consideration of driver licensing was revived at a meeting of the Board of Governors
of the Automobile Club of America in New York City on June 3, 1902, after the tragic
deaths of two spectators at the Baker Torpedo speed trials in Statten Island. n108 Ward
Chamberlin, an officer of the Automobile Club, indicated at the meeting that no
[*260] professional auto "chauffeur" was licensed anywhere in the United States,
and licenses were unnecessary because every driver had a duty, presumably under
common tort and contract law, to be competent in the use and knowledge of motor
vehicles. Chamberlin went on to ask, "why not ask the same question in regard to
drivers of butchers' carts?" n109 "Runaway [horse] accidents occur every day, and yet
there is no public clamor about them." n110
This discussion, reprinted in the June 3, 1902, issue of the New York Times,
represents one of the first known public discussions of the concept of licensing the
drivers of American automobiles. Although strenuous resistance to the idea of licenses
was voiced at the meeting, the Automobile Club apparently resigned itself to the
possibility of future licensing as a matter of fate. n111
I should not, said [Automobile Club] President Shattuck, object to a proper licensing
scheme. There is none at present here or in England. In France you apply to the Chief
of Police. In Paris he refers you to one of the engineers of the city for examination.
You go to him, by appointment, with your motor. He gets in beside you, and you drive
as he directs, slow or fast. He asks you a few questions, and all is over in six or seven
minutes. The examination is by no means severe. You get first a provisional license,
and then a full license. If you are caught in delinquency, fast driving or what not, the
officer takes your number and you may expect a summons. If you are caught
frequently you may wind up in a cell for a day or so. n112
Regulating motorized vehicle travel took off quickly after 1905. The Providence
Journal reported that "the people of Rhode Island are incensed by flagrant cases of
reckless driving of automobiles, [and] the same feeling seems to be prevalent all over
the country." n113 As deaths and wreckage mounted, fewer and fewer Americans
maintained the hard-line [*261] libertarian position with regard to travel. American
culture itself was changing, and the frontier sentiments that so typified the nineteenth
century were fading into memory. n114
Legislative proposals often varied drastically from state to state, and automobile
aficionados faced a constantly shifting patchwork of state and regional proposals. As
quickly as courts struck them down, lawmakers made more. The automobile
associations gave up trying to challenge every state regulatory scheme and instead
devoted more and more time to navigating through the complexities of interstate
regulatory differences.
V. The Good Roads Movement
It was the want of good roads that seemed to have sealed the fate of the highway
libertarians. Chief among the problems faced by car drivers was the lack of adequate
roads for travel. The cry for good roads became a powerful political issue beginning in
the 1890s. n115 Colonel Albert Pope, a multi-millionaire bicycle manufacturer turned
automaker, and head of the League of American Wheelmen, led a national movement
to raise road building funds. n116 Pope's Good Roads Movement became a rallying cry
for the auto associations around the country. n117 Leaders in the movement sought
private donations for road building, but also lobbied for bills and resolutions that
provided state and federal aid to counties and municipalities for highway construction.
n118 With greater government involvement in road building came greater government
regulation.
Rights of access to roadways changed greatly as the car came to monopolize the
roads. n119 In earlier years, owners of land next to [*262] roadways won countless
court battles to obtain access to those roadways. But when horseless carriages came
into popular use, the law of streets and roads quickly evolved to give municipalities
absolute rights to construct or eliminate sidewalks, parking zones, parking meters,
and curbing without much regard for the interests of abutting property owners. The
complex realities of twentieth century urban life required the broad proclamations of
freedom known to prior generations to give way to a pragmatic municipal supremacy.
Touching on this point, in the 1943 case of Gardner v. City of Brunswick, the Georgia
Supreme Court stated, "while the public has an absolute right to the use of the streets
for their primary purpose, which is for travel, the use of the streets for the purpose of
parking automobiles is a privilege, and not a right." n120
As the roads became the province of state and federal legislatures, the very nature of
highway travel changed. No longer were the highways the domain of common
travelers with carts, buggies, horses, and the occasional automobile. The new
highways were intended for automobiles primarily, with the occasional pedestrian and
horse-wagon.
A shape-shifting jurisprudence developed to give more deference to legislative efforts
to regulate drivers. In 1916, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a hands-off, or states'
rights approach, upholding the power of each state to regulate the use of motor
vehicles on its own highways. n121 This was done despite the prevailing view among
jurists only a decade earlier that driving without unnecessary regulation was a
fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. n122 Whether by pure negligence, poor
memory, or willful neglect, the judges that ascended to the bench after the 1920s
failed to consistently apply, and sometimes even to mention, the right to travel by
the vehicle of choice.
The licensing of drivers was achieved, like many other areas of wide-scale regulation,
incrementally. States first required licenses of drivers "for hire" and then gradually
expanded, usually over a period of years, to require licenses for all drivers in general.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals, for example, declared in 1929 that "a citizen may
have, under the Federal constitution, a right to travel and to transport his [*263]
property upon the highways by motor vehicle; but he has no right to make the
highways his place of business." n123
The for-hire/not-for-hire dichotomy of early driver licensing was in some ways
required by the constitutional jurisprudence that existed before the auto era. The
precedent of distinguishing vehicles and drivers by their nature as either commercial
or noncommercial preceded the automobile, and was based upon the theory that
"public" travel could be regulated even if private travel could not. n124 Vehicles for hire
had been subject to license laws as early as the nineteenth century and almost
certainly long before.
By 1910, with the advent of the automobile, governments in the most populous states
had expanded the definition of "for hire" vehicles to include all vehicles of a
commercial nature and all vehicles carrying loads of any kind. n125 Cars that were
rented for temporary private use became "public" and hence subject to regulation. n126
An exception to the right to travel began to pop up whenever the constitutionality of
a license law was at issue. It was not long before the barriers to general licensing
became all but an illusion.
Many state courts declared driving an automobile a protected right, but nonetheless,
found driver licenses passed constitutional muster. No court after 1920 found the
right to travel sufficient to strike down a driver license requirement. Barely a decade
into the twentieth century, American automobile drivers had largely given up the
battle for the right to drive without a license. One reason may have been class envy,
or rather, class ego. Legal historian Lawrence Friedman pointed out that the
automobile was initially a toy for the rich, and, early on, evoked envy and pride. n127
The driver's license was a status symbol every member of high society desired. Only
four years earlier, in 1904, the first Rhode Islanders required to register their
automobiles leaped at the opportunity to obtain the first set of plates. n128 One car
owner phoned the Secretary of State at 1:00 a.m. following the day the law passed to
request registration number one, only to find the number had already been promised
to one of the law's sponsors in the General Assembly. n129 Under such [*264]
circumstances, a challenge that registration requirements and driver licenses were an
affront to fundamental constitutional rights was rare indeed.
In the end, the institution of the driver's license prevailed because those most inclined
to oppose the institution were continually occupied with objecting to differing state
regulations. The earliest registration and license regulations varied so much from
state to state few drivers knew exactly what the law was outside their own locality. n130
Shortly after New York and Massachusetts began requiring driver licenses, the AAA led
a small crusade not for invalidation of the license laws, but for uniformity of the laws.
n131
In 1907, the chairman of the AAA wrote, it is regretted, that automobile legislation is
even yet of so diverse and divergent a nature throughout the several states as to
indicate an imperative demand for one of two things, to wit: either (a) the speedy
enactment of a Federal law covering the field as far as may be; or (b) the enactment
throughout the States of a uniform automobile State law framed upon the model of
the best of the present State laws, with improvements thereon if possible." n132
A bill to issue federal driver licenses for interstate travel was introduced in Congress in
1911. n133 The bill never got out of committee, however, and little information is known
of the debates over the bill during its committee consideration. Federal licensing of
drivers passed from the minds of lawmakers shortly afterward, and no concerted
effort at such a scheme arose after the early twentieth century. n134
[*265] The war for the right to drive was not over, however. In the West,
legislatures were slower to adopt the driver's license, and litigation over the issue
continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Texans had been driving cars on Texas
roads for fifty years when the Texas legislature passed its Driver's License Act in
1935. In that year, the Texas Senate passed the American Bar Association's model
"Uniform Motor Vehicle Operators' and Chauffeurs' License Act." n135 The Texas House
of Representatives, however, authored its own legislation making the driver's license
voluntary:
Every person in this state desiring to operate an automobile under the
provisions of this law shall, upon application and identification, be issued an
operator's license to drive by the county clerk of the county in which the
motor vehicle is registered. But every person in the State over the age of
fourteen years ... shall have the right to drive and/or operate a motor vehicle
as that term is now defined by law, upon the public highways and roads of
this state. n136
The House's version of the proposed license law cited a Texan's "right to drive" nine
more times. n137 But when the House and Senate versions were reconciled, the
language making the license voluntary was removed. n138 However, the House
leadership insisted on inserting into the final act a provision for appeal which allowed
any person denied a license to petition for determination of "whether the petitioner is
entitled to the right to drive a motor vehicle on the highways of his state." n139
As recently as 1943, the Mississippi Supreme Court proclaimed the right to travel by
automobile to be a fundamental right. n140 "There seems to be no dissent among the
authorities on this proposition," the court wrote, apparently oblivious to the swiftness
with which this fundamental liberty had already been lost in most other jurisdictions.
n141 The [*266] Mississippi Supreme Court's words were mostly dicta, however, and
the court's position was overturned within two decades and strongly renounced a
generation later. n142
Month after month, year after year, the regulators made inroads upon the domain of
traffic freedom. Although the right to drive was mentioned in dicta in countless
decisions in the first two decades of the 1900s, it rarely operated as the rule of a
case. Rarely were license schemes or other impositions struck down as violations of
the Constitution. Driving may have been a fundamental right, but no court after the
1920s seemed willing to strike down legislation aimed at its restriction.
The 1925 edition of the Corpus Juris provides a telling illustration of how limited the
right to drive had become by that time. Under the "Licenses" entry, it is stated,
as a general rule, the right of a person to drive a team or vehicle upon a public street
or highway, or to haul by ordinary means, his own goods thereon without let or
hindrance is common to all citizens who have occasion to use the street or highway
for pleasure, profit, or advantage. n143
But the very next entry, citing dozens of reported court decisions, indicated that "a
license and tax may be imposed either by statute, or by municipal ordinance." n144
Thus, the alleged "general rule" was so narrowly construed as to be, for practical
purposes, illusory. (The most recent edition of Corpus Juris Secundum has eliminated
all mention of the "general rule.") n145
So it was that American law enveloped the right to drive into an increasingly narrow
corner. Although constantly mentioned in the first era of traffic regulation, the right
to travel by the vehicle of one's choice has slowly faded into distant memory and has
been lost to history. Some courts recognized its demise as early as the first part of the
twentieth century. The Supreme Court of South Dakota, for example, boldly [*267]
proclaimed that "public highways [were] wholly under the control and supervision of
the Legislature" as early as 1914. n146 "The Legislature, could," the court went on,
"exclude motor vehicles from the use of the public highways altogether." n147 By the
second half of the twentieth century, the right to travel by automobile was all but
forgotten in the quest to control the automobile.
Since 1950, no court has described driving an automobile as a "right." The
constitutional right to travel became increasingly interpreted not as a right to
locomotion by the means of one's choice, but as a mere right to emigrate between
states. n148 As Gregory B. Hartch pointed out in a recent law review article, this narrow
interpretation of the right to travel came about more from judicial neglect than from
any clear doctrinal justification. n149 Today, traffic bureaus refer to driving a motor
vehicle only as a privilege. n150 In 1994, the California legislature passed the Safe
Streets Act of 1994, stating expressly that "driving a motor vehicle on the public
streets and highways is a privilege, not a right." n151 The Fourth Appellate Court of
California, in Buhl v. Hannigan, n152 echoed this view by writing, "there is no
fundamental right to operate a motor vehicle; rather, driving is a privilege." n153 The
North Dakota Supreme Court was even more explicit, when it stated in State v.
Kouba, "the use of the public highways is ... a privilege which a person enjoys subject
to the control of the State." n154
By the second half of the twentieth century, a vast net of governmental regulation
had descended upon the American roadway. "The police car, prowling up and down
the streets, or roaring down the highway with sirens blasting and lights flashing,
[became] a familiar part of the landscape." n155 In California, more than a half million
tickets and fines and almost 9,000 jail sentences were handed out for motor vehicle
[*268] infractions in the first half of 1950 alone. n156 North Carolina prosecuted over
one million crimes and infractions related to motor vehicle travel during a twelve
month period between 1989 and 1990. n157 In Michigan, each year about twice as
many traffic misdemeanors are filed as all other nontraffic crimes combined. n158
VI. Conclusion
Today, when Americans get behind the wheel of their automobiles, they are
participating in one of the most regulated areas of modern life. Most people accept
this regulation without reservation, and few realize the immense changes that have
taken place over the last century. Americans living during the turn of the twentieth
century generally regarded highway travel as a fundamental right. Government
impositions such as licenses or registration requirements were thought to violate
constitutional protections, and horse and wagon travel were almost completely
unregulated in the United States. As Americans took to automobile driving in large
numbers, however, policymakers imposed increasingly stringent rules upon their
conduct. Courts discredited earlier precedents which protected the right to travel
and upheld the constitutionality of even the boldest traffic regulations.
The degree of traffic regulation is discounted as trivial by some Americans, but it has
important implications on the level of freedom in the United States. Americans are
largely dependent on motorized travel today because a substantial amount of all land
travel is by car. n159 Most Americans do not have access "to any viable alternative
public mode of transportation." n160 They must rely on automobile travel as their
primary means of getting to work and for many of their basic practical, social, and
recreational needs. n161 Today, people are more likely to come into contact with law
enforcement officers as a result of road traffic than in any other circumstance. n162
Thus, the impositions of driver licensing and [*269] traffic patrol by agents of the
State have generated a very real increase in the State's control over Americans' lives.
Legal Topics:
For related research and practice materials, see the following legal topics:
TortsTransportation TortsMotor VehiclesPersonal VehiclesTransportation LawPrivate
VehiclesBicyclesTransportation LawRight to Travel
FOOTNOTES:
n1. See Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom 265 (1998).
n2. See Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law in the 20th Century 548-51 (2002).
n3. See Bernard Schwartz, Main Currents in American Legal Thought (1993);
Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History (1993).
n4. See Schwartz, supra note 3; Friedman, supra note 3.
n5. Cf. Schwartz, supra note 3; Friedman, supra note 3.
n6. Schwartz, supra note 3; Friedman, supra note 3.
n7. The right to travel by personal vehicle was thought to be a fundamental right.
See, e.g., City of Chicago v. Banker, 112 Ill. App. 94 (1904); City of Chicago v.
Collins, 51 N.E. 907 (Ill. 1898); Swift v. City of Topeka, 23 P. 1075 (Kan. 1890).
n8. See infra notes 70-79 & accompanying text.
n9. J.C. Furnas, The Americans: A Social History of the United States 1587-1914, at
674 (1969) (citing Sarah Cleghorn, Portraits and Protests 49 (1917)).
n10. See id.
n11. See Stephen B. Goddard, Getting There: The Epic Struggle Between Road and
Rail in the American Century (1994); Clay McShane, Down the Asphalt Path: The
Automobile and the American City (Kenneth T. Jackson ed., 1994).
n12. Stephen W. Sears, Ocean to Ocean in an Automobile Car, American Heritage,
June/July 1980, at 59, 59.
n13. Id.
n14. Id.; Norman T. Moline, Mobility and the Small Town, 1900-1930, at 59 (1971).
n15. Sears, supra note 12, at 59.
n16. See Gerald Carson, Goggles & Side Curtains, American Heritage, April 1967, at
36.
n17. Id.
n18. See Furnas, supra note 9, at 109-10; Moline, supra note 14, at 59.
n19. See Furnas, supra note 9, at 109-10; Moline, supra note 14, at 59.
n20. See Furnas, supra note 9, at 109-10; Moline, supra note 14, at 59.
n21. See Moline, supra note 14, at 59.
n22. See Carson, supra note 16; Furnas, supra note 9; Moline, supra note 14.
n23. See Carson, supra note 16, at 36.
n24. Id.
n25. See Sears, supra note 12, at 60.
n26. Id. at 61.
n27. See Friedman, supra note 2, at 548-53; Schwartz, supra note 3.
n28. Simeone v. Lindsay, 65 A. 778, 779 (Del. Super. Ct. 1907).
n29. Id.
n30. See, e.g., Holland v. Shackelford, 137 S.E.2d 298-304 (Ga. 1964) (quoting
Atlantic W.P.R. Co. v. Atlanta, B. & A. R. Co., 54 S.E. 736, 746 (Ga. 1906)); Stavola
v. Palmer, 73 A.2d 831, 838 (Conn. 1950) (quoting Laufer v. Bridgeport Traction Co.,
37 A. 379, 381 (Conn. 1897)).
n31. See David M. Rabban, Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years (Arthur McEvoy &
Christopher Tomlins eds., 1997).
n32. See Richard C. Cortner, The Iron Horse and the Constitution: The Railroads and
the Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment (1993).
n33. See Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35 (1867).
n34. See City of Chicago v. Banker, 112 Ill. App. 94 (1904) (citing City of Chicago v.
Collins, 51 N.E. 907, 909 (Ill. 1898)).
n35. Id.
n36. See McShane, supra note 11, at 116-17.
n37. See, e.g., Banker, 112 Ill. App. at 94; Collins, 51 N.E. at 907; Swift v. City of
Topeka, 23 P. 1075 (Kan. 1890).
n38. House v. Cramer, 112 N.W. 3, 3 (Iowa 1907).
n39. Id.
n40. Id.
n41. Liebrecht v. Crandall, 126 N.W. 69, 69-70 (Minn. 1910).
n42. Harder v. City of Chicago, 85 N.E. 255 (Ill. 1908) (this era seems to have ended
with this case, which upheld a registration license requirement for owners of carts,
wagons and carriages within Chicago city limits).
n43. See, e.g., Roger Roots, Are Cops Constitutional?, 11 Seton Hall Const. L.J. 685,
695 n.45 (2001) (citing Kennard v. Burton, 25 Me. 39 (1845)).
n44. See, e.g., Shiver v. Tift, 85 S.E. 1031, 1033 (Ga. 1915) (citing City of Rome v.
Suddeth, 42 S.E. 1032 (Ga. 1902)) ("[A] person has a right to travel on a highway,
and there is no rule of law which prevents him from driving a nervous, high-strung
horse."); City of Covington v. Dalheim, 102 S.W. 829 (Ky. 1907).
n45. Swift v. City of Topeka, 23 P. 1075 (Kan. 1890).
n46. Id. at 1075.
n47. Id.
n48. See id. at 1076.
n49. Id. (emphasis added).
n50. Id. (emphasis added).
n51. City of Chicago v. Banker, 112 Ill. App. 94 (1904).
n52. Id. at 99.
n53. Id.
n54. 11 Am. Jur. Constitutional Law 329, at 1135 (1937) (emphasis added).
n55. Swift, 23 P. at 1076.
n56. See John Nowak & Ronald D. Rotunda, Constitutional Law (5th ed. 1995).
n57. See id.
n58. See Gregory B. Hartch, Wrong Turns: A Critique of the Supreme Court's Right to
Travel Cases, 21 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 457, 484 (1995).
n59. Id.
n60. Buck v. Kuykendall, 267 U.S. 307 (1925).
n61. Id. at 314. The Supreme Court's dalliance with the issue apparently ended there.
Over a three year period beginning in 1924, the Court dealt with a quartet of cases
involving states' attempts to control and set rates and fares for private commercial
carriers on state highways. See Mich. Pub. Utils. Comm'n v. Duke, 266 U.S. 570
(1925); Buck v. Kuykendall, 267 U.S. 307 (1925); George W. Bush & Sons Co. v.
Maloy, 267 U.S. 317 (1925); Frost v. R.R. Comm'n, 271 U.S. 583 (1926). The Court
struck down such stringent regulations based on the Commerce Clause and private
property grounds, but left undecided whether personal, noncommercial automobile
travel was a constitutional right. Interestingly, the Court declined to comment on
statements by the Maryland Attorney General to the effect that "the right of travel
over the highway in the customary and ordinary way" was generally recognized. Buck,
267 U.S. at 321.
n62. Simeone v. Lindsay, 65 A. 778, 780 (Del. Super. Ct. 1907).
n63. See, e.g., id.
n64. See, e.g., Hennessey v. Taylor, 76 N.E. 224 (Mass. 1905).
n65. See Simeone, 65 A. at 780.
n66. See McShane, supra note 11.
n67. To Test Chicago's Automobile Order, N.Y. Times, June 20, 1899, at 4.
n68. Automobiles in Chicago, N.Y. Times, June 22, 1899, at 3.
n69. Topics of the Times, N.Y. Times, July 4, 1899, at 6.
n70. Id.
n71. Id.
n72. Topics of the Times, N.Y. Times, Oct. 30, 1899, at 6.
n73. Automobiles in the Parks, N.Y. Times, Nov. 11, 1899, at 6.
n74. Topics of the Times, N.Y. Times, Nov. 5, 1899, at 22.
n75. Id.
n76. Automobilists Want Test, N.Y. Times, May 5, 1901, at 3.
n77. See id.
n78. See id.
n79. James J. Flink, America Adopts the Automobile, 1895-1910, at 169 (1970).
n80. Id; Farson v. City of Chicago, 138 F. 184 (C.C.N.D. Ill. 1905) (declining to grant
federal question jurisdiction).
n81. Flink, supra note 79, at 169.
n82. Id.
n83. Id.
n84. Id.
n85. Id. at 163.
n86. Id.
n87. Gilbert Love, A History of the Automobile Club of Pittsburgh During the First Half-
Century of Its Existence, The Pittsburgh Automobilist, March 1953.
n88. See Flink, supra note 79, at 163.
n89. See Daniel Moynihan, The Soulless City, American Heritage, Feb. 1969, at 5, 81.
n90. 45 Cong. Rec. 8072 (daily ed. June 14, 1912) (statements of Rep. Sims quoting
Robert G. Cousins).
n91. Id.
n92. See generally Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa (1974).
n93. Dorothy Schwieder, Iowa: The Middle Land 150 (1996).
n94. Id.
n95. Sage, supra note 92, at 221.
n96. 45 Cong. Rec. 8072 (daily ed. June 14, 1910) (statement of Rep. Sims quoting
Robert G. Cousins).
n97. Id.
n98. Id.
n99. Id. at 8073.
n100. Id.
n101. Id.
n102. Id.
n103. Flink, supra note 79, at 169.
n104. See McShane, supra note 11.
n105. See Richard E. Dragon, Registered in R.I.: Motor Vehicle License Plates and the
Registration of Motor Vehicles in Rhode Island Since 1904, at mxi (1998).
n106. Id. at 28.
n107. Licensing of Chauffeurs, N.Y. Times, June 3, 1902, at 5 (emphasis added).
n108. See id.
n109. Id.
n110. Id.
n111. Id.
n112. Id.
n113. Auto Clubs Desire Uniform State Laws, Providence Journal, Nov. 24, 1907, at 1-
3.
n114. See, e.g., Roger Roots, A Muckraker's Aftermath: The Jungle of Meat-Packing
Regulation After a Century, 27 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 2413 (2001) (describing
alteration of American legal culture in the aftermath of scares regarding meat quality).
n115. See James J. Flink, The Car Culture 8 (1975).
n116. Morris M. Musselman, Get a Horse! The Story of the Automobile in America
212-13 (1950).
n117. See, e.g., id.
n118. Id. at 214.
n119. The first highway limited exclusively to automobile traffic was apparently the
Bronx River Parkway in New York City. Gerald Carson, Supreme City: New York in the
20s, American Heritage, Nov. 1988, at 45, 50-51. The Parkway, opened to automobile
traffic alone in the fall of 1925, signaled the end of the highway as an all-purpose, allvehicle
transportation thoroughfare. See id. The increased speeds with which modern
autos traveled made slowing and stopping to accommodate draft animals such as
mules, horses, and oxen, a matter of great danger in urban environments.
n120. Gardner v. City of Brunswick, 28 S.E.2d 135, 138 (Ga. 1943).
n121. See Kane v. New Jersey, 242 U.S. 160, 167 (1916).
n122. See id.
n123. Slusher v. Safety Coach Transit Co., 17 S.W.2d 1012, 1012 (Ky. 1929).
n124. See City of Burlington v. Unterkircher, 68 N.W. 795 (Iowa 1896).
n125. Harder v. City of Chicago, 85 N.E. 255, 256 (Ill. 1908).
n126. City of San Antonio v. Besteiro, 209 S.W. 472 (Tex. Civ. App. 1919).
n127. Friedman, supra note 3, at 278.
n128. Dragon, supra note 105, at 28.
n129. Id.
n130. See, e.g., Auto Clubs Desire Uniform State Laws, Providence Journal, Nov. 24,
1907, at 1, 3.
n131. Id. at 3.
n132. Id.
n133. 45 Cong. Rec. 8072 (daily ed. June 14, 1910).
n134. Doctrines of federalism probably explain the early lack of federal involvement in
traffic regulation issues. As early as 1915, the United States Supreme Court indicated
that local traffic regulations were the domains of the states. See Hendrick v.
Maryland, 235 U.S. 610 (1915) (upholding state auto registration statutes on police
power grounds). The Court also sustained regulation by states intended to raise
revenues from automobile users to compensate for state maintenance of the
roadways. Id. at 624. However, the Court never squarely answered the claim of a New
Jersey litigant that "The right to use the streets is a natural right of every citizen
which cannot be converted into a privilege." Kane v. State of New Jersey, 242 U.S.
160, 162 (1916).
n135. Michael Ellis, Texas Driver's License Scam, 6 Antishyster 42 (1996).
n136. See id.
n137. See id.
n138. Id.
n139. Id.
n140. See Teche Lines, Inc. v. Danforth, 12 So. 2d 784, 787 (Miss. 1943).
n141. Id.
n142. See Lavinghouse v. Miss. Highway Safety Patrol, 620 So. 2d 971-971 (Miss.
1993) (stating that driving is a privilege, not a fundamental right in Mississippi).
n143. 37 C.J.S. Licenses 81 (1925).
n144. Id.
n145. See 53 C.J.S. Licenses 1-102 (1987).
n146. Ex parte Hoffert, 148 N.W. 20, 22 (S.D. 1914).
n147. Id.
n148. See, e.g., Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969) (holding that the right to
interstate travel prohibits states from enacting laws designed to make relocation to
another state difficult).
n149. See Hartch, supra note 58, at 457-84.
n150. Safe Streets Act of 1994, Cal. Veh. Code 14607.4(a) (West 2000).
n151. Id.
n152. Buhl v. Hannigan, 20 Cal. Rptr. 2d 740, 743 (Ct. App. 1993).
n153. Id.
n154. State v. Kouba, 319 N.W.2d 161, 163 (N.D. 1982).
n155. Friedman, supra note 3, at 278.
n156. Friedman, supra note 2, at 552.
n157. Friedman, supra note 3, at 279.
n158. Id. at 279.
n159. See Claire Corbett, Car Crime 1 (2003).
n160. See John Schaffer, Comment, Just Say No ... Driving: Rushworth v. Registrar of
Motor Vehicles and The Massachusetts License Suspension Law, 28 New Eng. L. Rev.
1071, 1091 (1994).
n161. Id. (stating that the 1990 U.S. Census revealed that ninety percent of workers
who work outside the home rely on automobile driving to get to work).
n162. Corbett, supra note 159, at 3.

Re:Absolute crock of shit, this case (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 5 months ago | (#45521791)

Intent is only mentioned in relation to building or installing the hidden compartment. So either they can prove he built it, show evidence of drug residue, or show he's previously been found (or plead) guilty to drug charges, there is no case against him.

The first is unlikely, but drug residue or prior convictions seem very plausible.

how to tell if you live in a police state (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521689)

check to see if there are lots of laws whose only purpose is to make life easier for the police without any other reasonable purpose

Read section (I) of the law for the whole story (5, Informative)

Japher (887294) | about 5 months ago | (#45521713)

http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=129_SB_305 [state.oh.us]
(I) This section does not apply to a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms provided that at the time of discovery the box, safe, container, or other item added to the vehicle does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance.

So it's OK to have a hidden compartment in your car as long as it does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance. For the record, I still think the law is crap but it's not as bad as the article makes it out to be.

Re:Read section (I) of the law for the whole story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521877)

Maybe those with a hidden compartment would find it beneficial to have a copy of this statute in said compartment.

Re:Read section (I) of the law for the whole story (1)

pr0t0 (216378) | about 5 months ago | (#45521927)

I think it is as bad as the article makes it out to be.

They searched the car? Did the have a warrant? Probable cause? What was the probable cause? Wires to the trunk? The tail lights are in the trunk. Those need wires. Aftermarket speakers, amps, and alarm systems usually require wires running to the trunk. What is about wires that are so damning? Do these alleged secret drug compartments typically use their own climate control system or something? Even if they had probably cause, which it doesn't sound like, was there visible drug residue in the secret compartment? The officers may have asked if they could look in his car. If so, that would be the owner's own dumb fault for saying yes (never say yes), but I still don't see that holding up in court (IANAL).

The article doesn't mention residue either, so that could have been withheld to sensationalize the piece, but I don't think it matters. The law is sensational enough as it is, and the ACLU is correct. There's already a law on the books against drug-trafficking. There's no reason to extend that to the type of container it may be found in.

Also, this. [youtube.com]

Re:Read section (I) of the law for the whole story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521991)

No residue? What story were you reading? It mentions that it reeked of pot; that + his priors is absolutely probable cause.

Re:Read section (I) of the law for the whole story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521935)

All the cop has to do is say:

"I smelled Marijuana" or "I saw a white powdery residue" and the standard is met. He doesn't have to be telling the truth, and has to collect no actual evidence of drugs. His word is good enough in any court of Law.

Arrested . . . but will he be charged? (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 5 months ago | (#45521721)

Unless there is dope residue in the car, there is no way that any prosecutor would ever charge this because there is no way they could prove the intent element.

Major constitutionality problems.

Re:Arrested . . . but will he be charged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45521805)

Did you read the article? The car was reeking with the stuff. Pretty sure they can find residue.

Same stupid thing (1, Funny)

no-body (127863) | about 5 months ago | (#45521739)

as all those stop signs on crossings where one can see traffic 1/2 mile each side.

Which leads to the question how much fuel is wasted bringing all those huge masses of big cars to a full stop, then accelerating again - all just satisfying the rules....

Interesting... (5, Interesting)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 5 months ago | (#45521767)

As bad as the law is, according to the law's language itself, he shouldn't have been arrested. Here's the last section of the law:

(I) This section does not apply to a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms provided that at the time of discovery the box, safe, container, or other item added to the vehicle does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance.

Only one section of the law mentions the word "intent" and that's in reference to actually building or installing the hidden compartment. So unless this guy also had a prior drug felony, or unless they could show he installed the compartment himself, there's no real case against him. I'm guessing he has a record though, which is why the went forward with the arrest.

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