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Outrageous Massachusetts Drug Bill Would Send You to Prison and Steal Your Car -- No Drugs Needed

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #981)
p>With the support of state law enforcement, a Massachusetts Democratic state representative has filed a drug war bill that would send violators to prison for a mandatory minimum two years (five years for a second offense) and allow police to seize their vehicles -- all without the presence of any actual drugs.

Sponsored by Rep. Stephan Hay (D-Fitchfield), the measure, House Bill 1266, makes it a crime to have a hidden compartment in one's vehicle or to try to add one -- and it presumes that any hidden compartment in a vehicle is for "for the purpose of transporting or distributing controlled substances" and related contraband, such as cash or weapons. As the bill specifies in its asset forfeiture section:

Proof that a conveyance contains a hidden compartment as defined in this section shall be prima facie evidence that the conveyance was used intended for use in and for the business of unlawfully manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing controlled substances.

This is a legislative attempt to redefine reality in the name of drug war priorities akin to South Dakota's law deeming meth use or possession by a parent as child abuse. Despite that law, meth use is not child abuse, although it could lead to it. Similarly, having a hidden compartment in a car does not mean one is involved in trafficking, although one could be. But in both cases, legislators seek to twist reality to sync with prohibitionist -- and punitive -- ideology.

Only one state, Ohio, has a similar law on the books, and it has only been used once, but that one instance should be disturbing. In 2013, state troopers stopped Norman Gurley and discovered a secret compartment in his vehicle. They found absolutely no drugs but arrested him anyway on charges he broke the secret compartment law. That case briefly became a national news sensation before fading into obscurity, but it still lives: Gurley is set for a jury trial in December.

Police in Massachusetts are supporting this bill not only because it gives them one more tool in their war on drugs, but also because they get to keep any cars they seize. Massachusetts has the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the country, and unlike states that are lining up to end forfeitures without a criminal conviction, as neighboring Connecticut did this week, cops only need to reach the threshold of probable cause that someone's cash or car or other property is related to a crime to seize it. This bill would make it all the easier, and they wouldn't even need to find any drugs.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


This bill is insane. I have two antique pieces of furniture with secret compartments handed down to me through 3 generations. Does this make me a criminal? You American people must take the designers of this law to jail. Such people should not be free to walk in the street. Civil asset forfeiture started out as a law enforcement tool to challenge illegal drugs and ended up being an illegal money making racketering scheme for the government. So where do you suppose House Bill 1266 is driving towards?

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 5:28am Permalink
Jim)(&*^ (not verified)

can anyone else see the greed in this? what do they do with your car after they seize it? they action it off and pocket the money , oh they say it goes to "charity" ,,, right and they want to disarm us so we are totally defenseless against them

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 12:25pm Permalink
Ernest Martinson (not verified)

It could be a crime to have a hidden compartment in your vehicle in Massachusetts.  Such a secret compartment, even though it not contain a controlled substance, can put you in prison and cause forfeiture of your car to Big Brother.
Just another means for Big Brother to control you and take your property.  Thank Government  this could never happen to me.   I am a good Government-fearing man as I was taught to be in Government school.

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 1:29pm Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

This is another huge attack on the privacy of citizens!   -   Secrecy is just another form of privacy.   It's the creation of a space that only we know of.  -  There are an infinite number of uses of such a space - most legitimate -  just as there are an infinite number of reasons humans need their privacy.

But, just as George Orwell predicted, authoritarian governments naturally want to do away with any and all forms of privacy.   -   We have exceeded Orwell's worst dystopian visions.  -  Most of the time, we aren't even aware that our privacy has been invaded and destroyed.

The massive surveillance society is marching rapidly toward completion.  Cameras at almost every intersection and store front, the government theft and storing of ALL our telephone and computer communications are already in place and a part of the government spying program once named "Total Information Awareness."  -  Though they have dumped the name, the program carries on to destroy every speck of privacy and dignity we once had.

What's next?  -   Expect cameras in bathroom stalls, the recording of every "private" conversation, argument, and even the words uttered in our sleep -  through advancing technology.  --  The government is even working furiously on the science to penetrate the last refuge of self -  our thoughts. --  Advances have already been made in the detection of thought patterns.

If we don't stand up to demand our right to privacy, what it means to be "human" will soon change beyond our most horrific nightmares!

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 4:37pm Permalink

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