ELYRIA — A Georgia man has been indicted for having a secret compartment in the car he was driving on the Ohio Turnpike in November.
Norman Gurley, 30, is the first person to face the felony charge in Lorain County, Assistant County Prosecutor Dave Muhek said.
Gurley was stopped by the Ohio Highway Patrol on the Turnpike on Nov. 19 for speeding and following too closely, according to an initial report on his arrest.
“The odor of raw marijuana was smelled inside the vehicle,” the report said. “A probable cause search of (Gurley) revealed a small amount of marijuana. A probable cause search of the vehicle revealed an electronic, after-market, hidden compartment built in to the rear seat.”
Muhek said the secret compartment was a metal box installed in the rear seat of the Buick controlled by an electronic switch. The compartment was empty when troopers found it during what Muhek described as a routine traffic stop.
He said under Ohio law, it’s not illegal to have a secret compartment in a vehicle as long as it’s not used for transporting contraband such as drugs, which is what police and prosecutors believe Gurley was using the compartment for.
The law against using secret compartments to smuggle contraband was passed in 2012.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had opposed passage of the bill as “an unnecessary and unproductive expansion of law,” arguing on its website that drug trafficking already is illegal in the state.
Gurley, who is free on bond, pleaded no contest in March to disorderly conduct and was fined $100 in Oberlin Municipal Court after prosecutors agreed to amend the original possession of marijuana charge, according to court records.
Gurley’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.